Vermont Fusion! Fresh Maine shrimp pair with chili and ginger for great new taste spanning four cultures.
The shrimp are running in Maine, and intrepid fishmongers are bringing them by the vanload to sell inland. On winter Fridays, the fish truck sells amazingly fresh seafood just off the boat that morning: blue-green lobsters, haddock, steamer clams, and these shrimp. I asked to see them, and she took me around the side of the pickup truck and flipped up the tarp. There were two big crates of shrimp, obviously just caught. I immediately bought two pounds to bring home.
Maine shrimp are quite different from the usual Gulf shrimp. They are smaller, and much more delicate. They are meaty, but don't have the crunch we associate with shrimp. Rather, they are tender and sweet. Cleaning two pounds takes a while, but it settles into a rhythm. Snap in half, twist off the very tip of the shell's tail, which allows the meat to come out more easily.
But it's worth the work!
While cleaning the shrimp, I had time to think about preparation. I decided to quickly saute them with garlic, ginger and shallots, then make a very light sauce from Vietnamese fish sauce, Thai sweet chili sauce, and Chinese sesame oil. Presented on a bed of rice vermicelli and salad greens, this was a fresh and delicious dish.
Note on Fish Sauce: If you are not familiar with this, it is a thin, salty sauce made from anchovies, appearing similar to soy sauce. The one I have is "Squid Brand", although there is no squid in it. Picture the business meeting in which this name was selected: "What to call the new company?" "I know, let's call it Squid Brand!""Terrific idea, we will sell a million bottles."
Ginger-Chili Shrimp on Rice Vermicelli
4 ounces rice vermicelli
2 cups chopped salad greens: lettuce, tomato, red cabbage, etc.1 tomato, in wedges
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, sliced, peeled and chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup julienned bamboo shoots, 1/4 cup snow peas and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce(optional)
2 pounds Maine shrimp in the shell, or 3/4 lb cleaned small to medium shrimp
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons bottled Fish Sauce (nuoc mam)
1/3 cup Sweet Chili Sauce (Thai)
3 Tablespoons dark Sesame Oil
- Boil rice vermicelli in 2 quarts water for 3 minutes; drain, rinse, cover, and set aside.
- In a very large saute pan, combine olive oil, shallots, ginger, and garlic. Saute over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Take out half of this mixture and reserve in a small bowl.
- Add the optional bamboo shoots and snow peas to the saute pan, and continue cooking for two minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and remove from pan to a covered plate.
- Wipe out the pan, then add the shrimp and the reserved oil, ginger, shallot mixture. Turn the heat up to highest. Cook, flipping the shrimp, until just barely cooked through (the shrimp will curl and become opaque). Do Not Overcook! The liquid released by the shrimp should have evaporated.
- Quickly add the sugar, fish sauce, chili sauce and sesame oil, folding until just combined.
- Plate by placing hot vermicelli on the platter, then the salad greens and tomato wedges. Next place the bamboo shoots and snow peas (if using these) on the greens. Finally, top with the shrimp, pouring sauce over all. Serve immediately.