Though it looks a tad odd at first, Mexican cuisine has its own rendition of the shrimp cocktail. It has many similarities to the American version, except it trades out the horseradish for hot sauce and really amps up the seafood flavor with clam juice.
When in Mexico City, I indulged in this a lot and still think back to a specific stand on the side of the street where the coctel de camarones came straight from a large glass with saltine crackers. I looked at many versions of this recipe before going with this one from Rick Bayless's Fiesta at Rick's, which just perfectly nails this simple dish.
I first had to get over the fear of using lots of ketchup. Though I found a few versions that started with a different kind of tomato sauce, nothing else works quite as well. What's most odd about this recipe is how even one-fourth of a cup of hot sauce doesn't end up tasting all that hot. Sure, it's diluted with clam juice, but I think it's the sweetness of the small shrimp that really do the trick.
Oh, and while tortilla chips will work in a pinch, saltines are absolutely essential here.
- 1 pound uncooked small shrimp (about 71 to 90 pieces per pound)
- ¾ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup Mexican hot sauce
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- ¾ cup clam juice
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced crosswise
- 2 dozen saltines or 8 ounces tortilla chips
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Fill a large pot halfway up with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add the shrimp. Cook until shrimp are pink and firm, 10 to 30 seconds. Immediately drain shrimp in a colander and then rinse under cold water until shrimp are cool.
Stir together the ketchup, hot sauce, cilantro, lime juice, white onion, and clam juice in a medium-sized bowl. Taste to see if it needs salt, and some if you think it needs it (I didn’t add any). Add shrimp and stir well.
Serve the shrimp and sauce in four cocktail glasses, or simply in a four small bowls. Garnish with slices of avocado, and serve with lime wedges and crackers or tortilla chips.