When I found head-on, tail-on shrimp at my local Korean market that didn't cost more than ribeye, I felt like I had won the lottery. It's not that I don't eat much shrimp—I always seem to have a bag of headless frozen shrimp in my freezer—I just can never find them like this. The frozen kind are perfect for a quick pasta dish, and they are cheap, too. It's hard to find cheap whole shrimp in the Midwest, and now that I found them, my options were wide open.
These weren't the biggest suckers I've ever seen. My initial thought was a real shrimp étouffée, but that's definitely more of a weekend adventure. After searching a bit, I came across this recipe in Saveur. It's one that's authentic to the Philippines. I had a lot of luck with the Chicken adobo from the same issue, so I figured I'd give it a go.
It's a gleefully messy adventure. One requiring ripping heads and picking off shells just to reach a little nugget of sweet meat. If you love shellfish destruction as much as I do, then you are in luck. Just make sure to have lots of napkins and a big appetite.
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 10 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Black pepper
- 2 pounds shrimp, head and tails on if available, long antennae removed
- 1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk
- 6 Thai chilies, or jalapenos
Place a work or a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil. When hot add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant and lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Toss in the onions and cook until they are browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, shrimp, chilies, coconut milk, and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir until everything is mixed well. Cover the wok or skillet, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 6 minutes.
Remove lid, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked. Season with more fish sauce and black pepper to taste. Serve with some white rice.