This may look like just another shrimp recipe to you all but for Nathan and I this sweet and spicy appetizer is part of our history and holds sweet and nostalgic memories. During our engagement we lived about 45 minutes apart in different states and were separated by the DC Beltway so seeing each other required some planning and perseverance. During that time we met almost every monday evening at a microbrewery in VA called Sweetwater Tavern to spend time together, and enjoy some appetizers and tasty beers.
We got to know the bartender that was always on duty on Monday evenings (we miss you Martha!) and I’m pretty sure that we tried almost everything on the menu. One of our favorite and most frequently ordered appetizers was the firecracker shrimp. The shrimp was fried to a golden crisp and then coated in a sweet and spicy glaze and placed on a bed of cabbage slaw…so tasty and memorable enough that almost 4 years later this dish came to mind again recently as something that I wanted to recreate on Rampant Cuisine.
I’m happy to say that this recipe truly honored our engagement ritual and was spot on. The flavors are not exactly identical to Sweetwater’s version but I can humbly say that I may like ours better. Our shrimp had the light crunch that we were going for and the sauce is the perfect level of spice balanced with sweet and a sourness from the vinegar and fish sauce. Also, this whole dish only took about an hour from start to finish. Even if the shrimp pictures in this post don’t conjure romantic feelings for you, it’s still a recipe worth trying and making memories of your own with!
We are on a hot streak with our wine pairings right now and this weeks pairing kept up the trend. This wine, being a Vouvray, is on the sweeter side so it complimented the sweetness in the chili sauce but it also has a nice acidity that cut through the sweetness and spiciness and magnified the undertones of acidity in the chili sauce. I’m not always a fan of vouvrays because I tend to find them too sweet but I loved this one because it was medium dry and had a perfect level of acidity to balance the sweetness.
I was debating between pairing a pale ale or a lager with the shrimp and settled for a lager. A lager washes down the oil from frying the shrimp and the sharp vinegar flavors from the sauce really well. The Fordham Gypsy Lager is a very clean tasting and easy drinking brew. The mild malt flavors balance well with the slight hop flavors and make the beer quaffable without sacrificing too much flavor. This is one of those beers that you can drink as a session beer all day long or pair with pretty much any meal without a problem.
Crunchy Fried Shrimp Recipe
3/4 lb. uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
Vegetable oil (for frying)
1. Beat eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Mix flour, salt and pepper in another medium bowl. Dredge shrimp in flour, shake off excess. Dip shrimp into eggs, then press shrimp into Panko; turn shrimp over and press into Panko again to coat both sides.
2. Pour enough oil into heavy large pot to reach depth of around 2 inches; heat to 350 degrees F.
3. Working in batches, add shrimp to hot oil; deep-fry until cooked through, about 1 minute. Using tongs transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain.
Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. dried crushed chili
1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 3-4 Tbsp. cool water
1. Place all ingredients – except the cornstarch-water mixture – in a sauce pan or pot. Bring to a rolling boil.
2. Reduce heat to medium and let boil for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half.
3. Reduce heat to low and add the cornstarch-water mixture. Stir to incorporate and continue stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens (about 1 minute).
4. Remove from heat, taste-test, and adjust seasonings.
5. Drizzle the sauce over the fried shrimp or pour the sauce into a small
We kept the ‘slaw’ super simple since the flavors in the chili sauce are strong. We simply bought small heads of both red and green cabbages, chopped up about ½ of each along with ¼ cup chopped cilantro, and tossed this mixture with a tablespoon of rice vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil.