Large, head-on shrimp make a dramatic presentation in this rustic Mekong dish. Be sure to use the freshest shrimp you can, or substitute defrosted peeled and deveined shrimp.
Chefs Spike Mendelsohn and Mike Colletti like to serve this with slices of grilled watermelon.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 16 head-on shrimp (prawns), size U-10, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds total (may substitute 2 pounds peeled and deveined large uncooked shrimp, defrosted)
- 2 stalks lemon grass (outer layers removed), smashed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 4 whole Thai red chili peppers
- 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut lengthwise into very thin slices
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallots
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup fish sauce
- 2 cups canned coconut juice
- Handful fresh bean sprouts, for garnish
- 4 small sprigs cilantro, for garnish
Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large skillet, preferably nonstick, until the oil emits wisps of smoke. Place a large plate near the stove top.
Working in batches, add the prawns 4 at a time. Stir-fry for a few minutes, until the prawns are pink or red all over. Transfer to the plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and prawns.
(Alternatively, the oil can be heated in a large roasting pan; add all of the prawns and roast in a 400-degree oven until they are pink all over.)
Add the lemon grass, chili peppers, ginger, red onion or shallot and the sugar. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until the sugar has dissolved, then add the fish sauce and coconut juice. Cook for 2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Return all of the shrimp to the wok or skillet and stir-fry for a few minutes, until well coated with the sauce.
Divide among individual deep bowls; garnish with the bean sprouts and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Tested by Spike Mendelsohn.
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