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Spicy “Asian” Shrimp

November 28, 2006

As a person who doesn’t cook a lot of fish, I’ve been especially intimidated by the shrimps. Hence, in my few shrimp-cooking experiences, I always bought them not just peeled and deveined, but already cooked, so as to avoid the “what the hell do I do with this thing” question altogether. Whenever I saw the little guys at the fish counter, I couldn’t really tell if they’d been peeled and deveined, or just beheaded, or what, and I certainly didn’t know how to do all that stuff to them myself. Yeah, people told me it was easy, but…well, ewwww.

Well, tonight I had my first experience with shrimp I had to deconstruct myself.

I picked up half a pound of shrimp from the market the other day, and I couldn’t really tell if they’d been peeled or not until I got them home. In fact, my total lack of shellfish knowledge meant I wasn’t even sure if they were peeled or not once I had gotten them home. “Alright,” I thought, “hmmmm. they have little legs. And it seems like the outside is harder than the shrimp I usually buy cooked. Hmmm. they don’t have heads. And I don’t really see any veins along their backs. The Joy of Cooking equals not helpful at all.”

I decided to forget ahead. What “forge ahead” means is that I pulled off their shells, and their creepy little legs, and tossed them in the marinade. Halfway through the shucking process (is it called shucking if it’s not corn?), I realized that they did, in fact, have veins that should be pulled out. Forging ahead also means that I was too lazy to take the shrimp out of the oily marinade and try to pull out their veins, so only half of my shrimp were deveined. Yes, that is the Laura definition of forging ahead.

Deveing wasn’t really so bad. Here’s what I learned about uncooked, unpeeled shrimps (if yours have their little heads attached, well, I don’t know what to tell you, except don’t look ’em straight in the eyes):

  • It’s easiest to peel them if you hold them near the head area and pull at the tail part. That seems to get most of the shell and the little leg things off, and the rest just sort of comes right away. Every single thing I read about peeling shrimp once I’d finished described a whole other method, but I felt gross about touching their legs.
  • All the things I read also described veins on the back of the shrimp only. That’s why I thought they had already been deveined: I didn’t see any. But even if you can’t see them, they’re still there, and according to Mr. X, sometimes they run down the front, and not the back. It’s not so hard to get them out, though. Just slice down the back until your knife tip catches on something stringy, and then use the knife (or fingers) to pull it right out. Yuck.

Alright, so honestly, I couldn’t even tell the difference between the veiny and deveined shrimp, except that those I deveined were slightly butterflied in the back. Then my kindly friend Eunice told me I had just eaten shrimp poop. Thanks, Eunice.

The marinade was pretty awesome, though. I modified it from an “Asian Chicken” recipe my aunt and uncle gave me years and years ago (I think the soy sauce is what makes it “asian”). Here’s what was in it:

  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • A little less than 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 T. olive oil

(Those measurements are all approximations, because I didn’t really measure anything). I only marinaded my shrimps for about 15 minutes, because I was hungry. And they only needed to be sauteed for about 3 minutes (I think I overcooked mine). I just tossed some steamed spring peas and summer squash in with the shrimps, so it all got all saucy, but you can do whatever you want, I think. Then I ate it all up. It was good, even with the shrimp poop.

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