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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tamarind Shrimp

After a wonderful trip to San Francisco recently, where we ate excellent Szechuan food and out of this world dim sum, we admitted that while it was unlikely that we would ever be able to put on spreads like the ones that we had, that we would still like to cook Asian food more proficiently.  The restarting of our CSA and the weekly bounty of vegetables is a perfect time to try to raise our game in that arena.  I love the spring, because while there is not much in the way of variety of vegetables, the quantity starts out at a very managable level, and so we can ease into the big summer volume.

This was made by my spouse for a low calorie dinner--delicious!

1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Tamarind liquid (see below--I buy it already made)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs cilantro

To make the flavoring sauce, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, tamarind liquid, fish sauce and Sriracha.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Taste the sauce and adjust the flavors to taste, if necessary.  Add extra sugar to reduce tartness, fish sauce for more savory depth, chili sauce for extra heat or water to dilute.
Refresh the shrimp by putting them in a colander and tossing them with a liberal amount of salt.  Rinse immediately under lots of cold water and drain well.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Ad the shallot and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the shrimp and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until they have turned pinkish orange and are half-cooked.  They will release juice and look shiny.
Give the flavoring sauce a stir, pour it over the shrimp, and stir to coat the shrimp.  Let the sauce come to a vigorous boil, stirring occasionally to keep the elements moving.  The sauce will reduce to a thickish consistency, in about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a deep plate or shallow bowl.  Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Tamarind Liquid

1 package (14-16 oz) seedless tamarind pulp
4 cups water
In a small saucepan, combine tamarind pulp and water over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to steep and soften for about 30 minutes, or until you can easily press the pulp against the side of the pan with a fork.
Roughly break up the pulp to make it easier to strain.  Position a sieve over a bowl and pour in the tamarind.  Using a rubber spatula or metal spoon, vigorously stir and press the solids against the mesh to force as much of the pulp through as possible.  If necessary, return the pulp to the saucepan, add some of the already strained liquid, stir to loosen up more of the pulp, and then work it through the sieve again.  When the pulp is spent, discard the fibrous leftovers.  The resulting liquid will resemble chocolate cake batter.
Use the liquid immediately, or pour into ice-cube trays and freeze.  Note how much each tamarind cube contains; it is typically about 2 tbsp.  Once the cubes are frozen hard, transfer them to a ziploc bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.  

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