I should qualify my posts from Thailand with a disclaimer that I do not proclaim to know authentic Thai cooking. I’ve never taken a class or read a book. I cook with my mouth, which is to say I cook what tastes right and good with ingredients I have on hand. Furthermore, in this particular instance I was cooking on a boat with a limited pantry in a foreign country. Now that’s out of the way I can tell you that this here shrimp was delicious.
On our first day aboard the boat, after a particularly adventurous excursion into a bat cave, we were approached by a small boat (like the ones pictured below) with three men aboard. On other trips I’ve been on locals have done this with produce, so we assumed that’s what was going on. Imagine our excitement when they opened the lid of a pot to reveal a whole mess of live shrimp!*
We were so excited it left us no room to haggle. We forked over our baht and began brainstorming what to do with it. Two of my main cooking principles are to let ingredients shine and keep it simple, they go hand in hand really, especially when cooking for a crowd. I consider a crowd to be more than 4 people and we had 10. Therefore cleaning and peeling the shrimp for use in a dish was out. I wasn’t about to do that or make anyone else do it. We had swimming to do and sunshine to enjoy. We opted for an extremely simple steamed shrimp with rice and papaya. I whipped up this sauce to accompany it and garnished with lime wedges and cilantro. We used it on shrimp, but it’s as versatile as any sauce. It’d be excellent as a salad dressing, steak marinade, or in a stir fry too. Go nuts with it!
Orange Chile Dressing
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled & finely chopped
3 Tbsp marmalade
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sweet chile paste
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 Thai bird chile, thinly sliced
1/2 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced (if you can’t find fresh lemongrass dried is just fine, use 1 tsp)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to emulsify oil and vinegar. Enjoy!
Rather than composting the shells we saved them to make shrimp stock, which later turned into some sort of delicious soup with galangal, kaffir lime leaves, tomatoes, and I don’t know what else because I didn’t cook that night. But something to keep in mind when cooking shrimp – save the peels and heads!
*On a darker note, the other cook aboard our cruise sent me this article a week or two after we got back. As I mentioned before, we were approached by a very small local boat and I assume this article is discussing issues concerning the industrial fishing practices in Thailand. It certainly casts a shadow over the trip, as we saw a ton of commercial fishing vessels, but preferable to be aware of it and able to make informed decisions both abroad and back home. Please take a moment and read through the article to educate yourself on the effects industrial fishing for worldwide consumption in just one small corner of the world.