- Course: Appetizer, Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Splurge
- Favorited: 3 Times
As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve been privileged to enjoy foods and cooking styles from around the world, right in my own concrete backyard. In ethnic neighborhoods all over Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, small cafes and restaurants feature dishes I am grateful to have been able to sample so close to home. They have influenced my palate, my cooking, and my kitchen style. One ingredient I’ve learned to love is tamarind, a thick, sour fruit paste with an acidic, apricot-date flavor. Tamarind appears in dishes from places as diverse as China, India, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The combination of tamarind and sweet honey is the epitome of what sweet and sour should be. Serve this as a starter before Sea Bass Steamed with Lemongrass and Chili-Coconut Broth.
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup rice wine
- ¼ cup honey, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla; see Note)
- ½ pound seedless cucumber, scored with a channeling knife or fork and cut crosswise into thin slices with a vegetable peeler
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup pea shoots, mung beans, or other sprouts
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 to 4 whole Thai chiles or 1 tablespoon seeded, minced jalapeno pepper
- 2 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ¼ cup shelled, unsalted peanuts, crushed or coarsely ground
1. Pour 2 tablespoons hot water over the tamarind and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until the mixture comes together in a paste. Add the rice wine, honey, and fish sauce and stir well to combine. Set aside.
2. Arrange the cucumber slices in an overlapping pattern around the edge of a serving platter. Arrange the tomatoes decoratively around the platter; overlapping the cucumbers where necessary. Arrange the pea shoots in a heap in the center of the platter. Set the platter aside.
3. Heat the peanut oil in a large wok or saute pan over high heat. Add the chiles and heat through for 30 seconds. Add the ginger, cook for 30 seconds, then add the shrimp and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tamarind glaze and bring to a boil. Toss or stir the shrimp well to coat in the glaze. Cook just until the shrimp turn firm and pink, 1 to 2 minutes more. If using whole Thai chiles, remove them with tongs and discard.
4. Spoon the shrimp over the pea shoots, scatter the peanuts over the top, and serve the salad family style from the center of the table.
An equal weight of sea scallops, thinly sliced monkfish fillets, or diced boneless chicken meat would be a good alternative to the shrimp. If using chicken, increase the cooking time to about 7 minutes.
Thai Fish Sauce: Thai fish sauce, or nam pla, is part of a long line of seasoning sauces that extends all the way back to the Roman Empire, where fermented fish paste was a kitchen staple. The fish sauce alone is a great seasoning agent, akin to anchovies in Western cooking. Its use has popped up in many cultures, including Vietnamese and Cambodian.
© 2004 Michael Lomonaco and Andrew Friedman
Nutritional information is based on 6 servings.