Chinese-Trinidadian stir-fried shrimp with rum

I found this rather unique dish on epicurious.com and decided to try it for Sunday dinner. It’s really a variation on Chinese sour-and-sweet dishes except that it is made with dark rum instead of rice vinegar. As a result, it has a mild rather than a pronounced sour flavor. Using a dark rum instead of vinegar is really an inspired idea. It shows how the Chinese adapted their cuisine to include what is locally available, as they did in  Trinidad and Tobago, where they have lived since the early 19th century.

Chinese-Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined with the tails on
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Preparation
1. In a medium bowl toss the shrimp with the lime juice for a few seconds. Rinse the shrimp, drain, and set on a plate lined with paper towels. With more paper towels pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl combine the ketchup, rum, soy sauce, and ground white pepper. [Cook’s Note: I didn’t have a piece of fresh ginger so I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger to the sauce.]

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Sprinkle on the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the shrimp begin to turn orange. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp have turned almost totally orange. Swirl the ketchup mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce coats the shrimp. Stir in the cilantro.

3. Serve with hot cooked rice and vegetable sides. I recommend steamed green beans lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and pan-roasted asparagus drizzled with lime juice and almond slivers.  And if you can get it, ripe plantains baked in the skin for 15 minutes.

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