Gullah Shrimp Mini Burgers

JJ Johnson

Henry at Life Hotel and Fieldtrip, NYC

Alexander Smalls

The Cecil and Minton's, NYC

Veronica Chambers

Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day

"These two-bite wonders hail directly from Alexander’s history in South Carolina and Gullah cuisine. The Lowcountry Gullah islands offer a legacy of Africa and the Caribbean on the doorstep of the American South, and their culinary and social richness can’t be captured in any one thing. Which is why instead of trying that, we take inspiration from their cuisine and fly off to Asia.” —James Beard Award nominees JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers


Pickled Cabbage Slaw

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 seeded and minced birds-eye chile
  • 1/2 head thinly sliced Savoy cabbage 
  • 2 cucumbers, cut in half and sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 julienned carrot
  • 1 julienned daikon radish 
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Gullah Shrimp Burgers

  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 chopped celery stalk 
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 seeded and chopped bird’s-eye chile
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs, plus 2 cups for coating 
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • Vegetable oil, for shallow frying 
  • 12 potato slider buns
  • Pickled Cabbage Slaw, for serving 


Make the Pickled Cabbage Slaw: whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and 1 1/2 cups water with the salt, sugar, and chile in a large bowl. Whisk until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and set aside.

In a plastic container, toss together the cabbage, cucumber, carrot, radish, and cilantro. Pour the brine over the vegetables and cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 week. The slaw will become more pickled as it rests.

Make the Gullah Shrimp Burgers: place 3/4 pound of the shrimp in a food processor. Add the celery, egg, chile, soy sauce, salt, and pepper and pulse until there is a mix of finely minced and coarsely chopped pieces of shrimp, about five 5-second pulses.

Fold the parsley, scallions, 2 tablespoons panko, and the lemon zest into the shrimp mixture to combine. Chop the remaining 1/4 pound of shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and fold into the mixture.

Shape the mixture into twelve 1 1/2-ounce balls. Roll the balls in panko and gently flatten into 1/2-inch-thick patties.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to simmer. Place three shrimp patties in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the edges turn pink and the burger looks golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over and cook for 3 more minutes, or until cooked through. Repeat with more oil and the remaining shrimp patties

To serve: place the burgers on the buns and top with the slaw.


Excerpted BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Copyright © 2018 by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photographs by Beatriz da Costa.


Serves 6