Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

Shrimp is classic Caribbean fare. No matter where you travel, from Cuba to the Dominican Republic to the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands to the coastal areas of Mexico and Central America, that tasty crustacean rates near the top of culinary favorites of visitors and natives alike.

Some friends of mine recently returned from a trip to that part of the world and raved about the tasty fresh shrimp meals they had there. The shrimp, they said, tasted nothing like their farm-raised counterparts that people who live inland have to rely on. On the contrary, they were tender, flavorful and just impressive.

I’ve never been to the Caribbean, and probably won’t be going there for a while yet. But there’s one thing for certain: When that happens, I’m going to indulge myself in a lot of seafood, particularly shrimp.

In the meantime, though, here’s a Caribbean recipe I may try that will have to suffice.

Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum
1 pound large shrimp
Juice of ½ lime
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
Using kitchen shears, cut through the shrimp shells two-thirds of the length down the back of the shrimp. Remove the legs and devein the shrimp, leaving the shells and tails on. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with 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.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 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 the 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 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.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish or 4 as part of multicourse meal.

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