Shrimp and Corn Chowder

In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best: Chef, culinary historian, and author Maricel Presilla of Zafra in New Jersey shares this recipe for a coastal Ecuadoran shrimp soup when we asked her for an example of classic Ecuadoran food. Key to this recipe is the grated plantain, which gives the soup a wonderfully light and creamy body (be sure to use an unripe plantain here). The recipe for the Tangy Corn Salsa served with the chowder can be found here.




  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 scallions, minced

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • Salt

  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons Annatto oil (recipe follows)

  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 3 plum tomatoes—peeled, seeded and finely chopped

  • 6 cups fish or chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth

  • 1 unripe (green) plantain, peeled and coarsely grated

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • Tangy Corn Salsa, for serving

Annatto Oil

  • 1 cup corn oil

  • ¼ cup annatto seeds


Make the Annatto Oil

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and annatto seeds and bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let the oil cool completely, about 30 minutes. Strain the Annatto Oil into a jar.

Make the Chowder

  1. In a large, shallow glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss the shrimp with two-thirds of the minced garlic, the scallions, lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 hours.

  2. In a food processor, puree the corn with the milk. Pour the puree through a coarse strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

  3. Heat the Annatto Oil in a large sauce-pan or enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the remaining garlic, onion, bell pepper and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the corn milk, stock, plantain, cilantro and cayenne and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until very flavorful, about 20 minutes.

  4. Pour the soup through a coarse strainer. Working in batches, puree the vegetables in a blender. Return the puree and the strained broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and its marinade and cook over moderate heat until the shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and serve in warmed soup plates or bowls with the Tangy Corn Salsa.

    Shrimp and Corn Chowder
    We took a deep editorial dive into the islands, rain forests, and mountains of Ecuador in a 2001 article, and we asked chef and author Maricel Presilla of Zafra in New Jersey to give our readers the best examples of classic Ecuadoran food. Presilla shared her fantastic recipe for a coastal Ecuadoran shrimp soup made with grated plantain, which gives the soup a wonderfully light and creamy body. Greg DuPree

Make Ahead

The Annatto Oil can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed jar for up to 2 months.

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