Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thai Shrimp with Roasted Chili Paste

I love the taste of roasted red chili paste, and this stir-fried shrimp dish is simplicity itself to make. It offers endless variations. I have made it with scallops and with littleneck clams. The version here is one of my “meals of last resort” recipes, the kind you make the day before you go shopping. The other night I scanned the larder and came up with some frozen jumbo shrimp, some frozen peas, a few white mushrooms, some sad scallions, and YES, an opened jar of roasted red chili paste. Call it dinner.

Here's the recipe, but as with all stir-fries the times are very approximate.

2 tbs. peanut or canola oil
1 tbs. chopped garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted (if you have fresh snow peas, blanch them and substitute)
2 tbs. roasted red chili paste
3/4 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs. fish sauce (nam pla or nuac mam)
1  scallion slice or fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat wok or pan for a few seconds until hot, swirl in the oil, and when it is hot enough toss in the garlic and stir-fry until it starts to brown, a few seconds, then toss in the onion and stir, then the mushrooms and stir fry for thirty seconds or so. Then stir in the chili paste and the shrimp and stir until the shrimp begins to turn pink. Add the peas and stir for a minute. Add the fish sauce and stir to incorporate.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with a sliced scallion or chopped fresh cilantro

Serve with jasmine rice and some Sriracha sauce on the side, which you won't really need unless you're a heat freak as this chili paste has plenty of kick.

Beverage of choice:  beer. Or an Alsatian gewurztraminer

(A note on ingredients: The chili paste, fish sauce, and Sriracha sauce, once exotic ingredients, are now available in many supermarkets. But if not yours, try an Asian market, or a fancy specialty shop. Nam pla is the Thai version of fish sauce and nuac mam is the Vietnamese version, but they are virtually indistinguishable.)

(Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2012)