Grilled Shrimp and Sriracha Mayonnaise Are Perfect Partners in These Chinese Steamed Buns

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

Plump grilled shrimp are a perfect filling for steamed buns. [Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt. Video: Natalie Holt]

Sometimes I like to eat a giant pile of just one thing. Popcorn, chicken wings, nachos, and grilled shrimp come to mind. But sometimes I want those elements to play a supporting role in a larger dish—by incorporating them into a meal, I'm less likely to end up feeling over-winged or over-shrimped.

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After several days of eating grilled shrimp virtually nonstop while developing my basic grilled shrimp recipe, I was ready to mix it up a little bit. My wife, Adri, even more so. When I go on an obsess-over-just-one-food bender, she's generally the one who has to suffer for it.

This dish of shrimp stuffed into a tender Chinese steamed bun with quick pickles, cabbage, and sriracha mayonnaise doesn't bear all that much resemblance to my simple grilled shrimp recipe, but the basic technique is exactly the same: Treat the shrimp with salt and baking soda (to help them stay nice and plump), arrange them tightly together on a couple of skewers to reduce their surface area, make sure they're completely dry before grilling, and, finally, grill them over insanely high heat. It's a method that works well no matter what you decide to flavor your shrimp with.

I really love how the salty, briny, sweet shrimp work so nicely with the vinegary pickles and crunchy cabbage. This sandwich is the whole deal—complementary and intense flavors and textures that elevate the everything to far more than the sum of its parts. I don't have any plans to open a shrimp shack in the future, but if I ever did, these steamed buns would be a shoo-in for the opening menu.