Monday, May 7, 2012

Shrimp in Spicy Tamarind Sauce

A few days ago Alex made a comment about how long it had been since we made Asian food.  And looking back, it really has been awhile.  We made Negima last month and Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup early last week, but it has been months since we really made Asian food.  Actually, our last little Asian food kick was related to Chinese New Year, which is not surprising.  Now that I am recovering from my salad obsession, we can go back to making more Asian food again.  Exciting, huh?

This shrimp recipe was a great way to break our homecooked Asian embargo.  It was delicious.  I might even go so far as to say that it is one of my favorite shrimp dishes we have ever made on the blog and certainly it is one of the best recipes we have made from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors.  All of the recipes from that particular cookbook are good, but this shrimp was just really high up there for me.  The sauce was a wonderful balance of tartness from the tamarind, spicyness from the Sriracha and sweetness from the shallots and the sugar.  It all just worked so well.  Alex liked the sauce so much that he saved his rice until after he finished his shrimp so he could dump his rice into the sauce and eat it doused in spicy tamarind sauce.  I like my rice to stay separate and distinct from any sauce, but even I considered doing it.  As a bonus, the recipe was totally easy to make!  If I were in the habit of grading recipes I would totally give this one an A+.  I'm not in the habit but I am going to give it an A+ anyway!

Recipe after the jump!

Shrimp in Spicy Tamarind Sauce
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors
By Andrea Nguyen

1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Tamarind liquid (see below)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 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 shirmp 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
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors
By Andrea Nguyen
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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