This amazing mix-and-match shrimp event started as many things in Gourmandistan do, with dim sum. Our successful shao mai, semi-successful har gow and further representations of our growing repertoire created quite a pile of shrimp shells. Steve, taking inspiration from Conor Bofin, decided he would maximize the value of the wild-caught, non-frozen shrimp and make shrimp stock. (Stunning revelation on checking Conor’s post: Steve forgot to add bay leaf. The stock turned out OK anyway.) Michelle, seeing Steve’s proposal as adding another set of jars to our already stuffed refrigerator, decided to make a meal. Still feeling like something Asian (dim sum-making has had powerful effects on us), she turned to James Patterson’s Splendid Soups and decided to make this semi-simple recipe that was delicious in a variety of ways.
We say “semi-simple” because, as Conor notes, cleaning shellfish is quite a pain, and something Michelle in particular does not enjoy. However, once you’ve stripped the last bit of shell (and sh*t) from your shrimp, you’re really almost all the way home. Yes, wrangling hot oil to fry shrimp balls can be risky, but it’s nothing compared to cleaning the crustaceans. (Just ask Michelle, who’s an excellent fryer who has made Steve clean both of our last buys of shell-on shrimp.)
The broth is everything we like about Thai: sour, spicy, hot, tangy and tasty. Using shrimp stock brings more shellfish flavor and a little more delicacy when the broth is plain. Throw in some hot, crunchy (and very clean) shrimp balls, however, and that hot Thai taste really starts to get interesting. Whether dropped in the soup or eaten on the side, the shrimp balls make a marvelous addition.
You can leave off the shrimp balls and stir in some coconut milk, making the soup rich and almost decadent.
Add the shrimp balls with the milk and you’ll definitely have something sinful. So grit your teeth and get into cleaning the best shell-on shrimp you can find. Many marvelous soup meals await.
THAI HOT AND SOUR SHRIMP BROTH
(adapted from James Patterson’s Splendid Soups) (serves 4-6)
SHRIMP BROTH BASE:
- Shells from about 1 lb. fresh shrimp
- 1 shallot, peeled and halved
- 1 celery stick
- 1 carrot, peeled
Place the shrimp shells in a roasting pan, along with shallot, celery and carrot. Drizzle a little oil over if you want, but you don’t have to. Roast in a 400° oven for a half hour or so.
Remove from oven, and place mixture in a saucepan. Cover with about 6 cups of water. Simmer for about 2 hours, adding more water if it cooks down too much.
SEASONED SHRIMP BROTH:
- 6 c. shrimp broth base (or pork or chicken broth)
- 3-4 chilies (preferably Thai chilies, but jalapeños or others will do), seeded and finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- Slice of ginger
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly shredded
- Piece of lemongrass, finely sliced (or, if nothing else is available, a dried slice)
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 c. fish sauce
- White pepper
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 scallions, sliced thin
- 1/4 c. cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 c. coconut milk (if not using shrimp balls)
Place broth, chilies, garlic, shallots, ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass in a pot. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in remainder of ingredients and cook for just a couple of minutes longer just until warmed.
- 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 t. sesame oil
- 1-1/2 TB grated ginger
- 1 egg white
- Pinch salt
- Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
- Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Combine shrimp, garlic, scallions, sesame oil, ginger, egg white and salt in bowl of a food processor. Pulse, scraping down sides between pulses, until the consistency of ground meat.
Refrigerate mixture, covered, for several hours or overnight.
Make balls, about a tablespoon in size. Roll in bread crumbs and place on a plate. Hold in refrigerator until ready to fry.
Heat oil in a saucepan to about 350°. Fry balls, several at a time, turning with a slotted spoon, until browned. Drain on a rack.
Serve shrimp balls alongside or in soup.