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Vietnamese spicy shrimp in tamarind sauce

I was looking for a simple pan-sautéed prawn dish that I could serve as a small bite to a friend that was dropping by. Looking through my library, this is the dish I decided to try and it was a hit!

It was not possible for me to find large or jumbo shrimp so I had to make do with the medium sized shrimp. The dish is super simple to cook, literally 10 minutes, so this is a dish you could cook up in a hurry.

The dish highlights the simplicity and beauty of Vietnamese flavors. The shrimp are coated heavily in a sour tamarind sauce and pops with the heat from Sriracha sauce. Make sure you keep the balance between the sour tamarind and the spice, you do not want one overpowering the other. The loads of cilantro garnish act a nice foil for the flavors.

This cookbook is one of many Vietnamese cookbooks on my shelf. I have been pulling it out ever so often to read and have cooked very little from it. However, and those recipes that I have tried are simple but amazing. Andrea Nguyen fled Vietnam with her family and her mother's recipe cookbook and settled in Southern California. Se started her carer in banking but her obsession with great Vietnamese cooking transformed her to a author, restaurant reviewer, chef and cookbook writer. This book is part a collection of recipes and part culinary history entwined with culture. This book has won numerous awards, but most of all is a fun book to have and to cook from.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons tamarind paste

A few drops fish sauce

2-3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce

For the shrimp:

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 lb large or jumbo shrimp

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Cilantro, minced, for garnish

Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, and taste for spice, sour and sweet. The flavors should be beautifully balanced with the predominant flavor being sour. Adjust as needed.

Heat a wok with the oil till hot. Add the shallots and the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds till they are fragrant, bit not colored. Add the shrimp and cook till they just start turning pink, about 1 minute. The shrimp may release water but that is okay.

Add the sauce and toss the shrimp well. Cook for an additional 2 minutes till the sauce has dried out and the shrimp are coated with the liquids.

Serve immediately in a wide bowl or plate garnished with cilantro.

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