Chile Shrimp

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Aromatic lemongrass and ginger are paired with wok-cooked head-on shrimp in this chile-studded dish.

Chile Shrimp
Photo:

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Total Time:
40 mins
Servings:
5

Although sommelier Rajat Parr’s years as a culinary school extern in the kitchen at Singapore’s Raffles hotel are long behind him, his memories of the country’s colorful street vendors stay top of mind in his recipe for Chile Shrimp, which originally appeared in Food & Wine in November 2009, and which was named a F&W Classic recipe — one that has stood the test of time — in 2022. 

“I had no idea I’d keep making [the dish],” says Parr, who now primarily serves as a partner and wine curator for The Waves, a recently launched wine subscription platform focused on organically farmed wines. “Back in the day, I’d get home at 9:30 or 10 p.m. after service, and I’d make this chile shrimp as a quick dinner.” Parr’s recipe is originally inspired by Singaporean chile crabs, which street vendors serve coated in a sweet chile sauce. In his spin on the dish, Parr sears shrimp with aromatics like ginger and lemongrass in a hot wok, then tosses everything in a chile-spiked sauce of ketchup, sherry, lemon juice, soy sauce, and sugar. A smoking hot wok is key to cooking the shrimp quickly and provides enough space to keep the mixture moving during the short cook time. 

While Parr usually makes the dish with shrimp, he has also used thinly sliced pieces of white fish and other varieties of shellfish. It’s the endless versatility and approachability that make this a recipe that Parr continues to tinker with and evolve over the years. “You can serve it with rice, flatbread, or crostini, plus it’s easy to adjust the heat level with mild or hot chiles,” he says. Parr suggests pouring a glass of dry or off-dry Riesling at around 10% or 11% ABV to highlight the tangy, sweet notes of the shrimp. Yet no matter what you choose to pair it with, one of Parr’s favorite things about this dish is that it can be as casual or fancy as you want it to be. 

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw large shrimp, tail-on, preferably head-on (see Note)

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry

  • 2 tablespoons sweet chile sauce (such as Mae Ploy)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

  • 2 medium (1-ounce) jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

  • 1 small (1-ounce) lemongrass stalk, tender inner white bulb only, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (from 1 [1-inch] piece)

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 4 scallions (about 2 ounces), thinly sliced (about 2/3 cup)

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Steamed long-grain white rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Using scissors, cut down the back of each shrimp shell, and remove vein, leaving shell intact. Stir together ketchup, sherry, chile sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large wok over high until smoking. Add shrimp in an even layer on bottom and sides of wok. Cook, flipping once or twice, until shrimp start to curl and turn pale pink, about 4 minutes.

  3. Add jalapeños, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to shrimp; cook over high, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add scallions and ketchup mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp are coated in sauce, about 30 seconds. Stir in cilantro. Spoon shrimp mixture evenly onto 4 plates, and serve with rice.

Suggested Pairing

Lightly off-dry German Riesling: Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Saarburger Kabinett


Note

For a richer and more shrimp-forward sauce, use head-on shrimp.

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