Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sweet chili shrimp

How do you explain to someone who doesn't cook, or who can cook only with a recipe, what goes on through your mind when you're deciding on what to whip up?

Take this dish, for example. I had one kilo of shelled, deveined shrimp thawing in the refrigerator. I had moisturizing gunk on my hair and scalp and wanted to keep it on the whole day so I didn't want to have to go out to buy ingredients. So I was running through both the refrigerator and the pantry in my mind (I was reading blogs at the time and didn't want to get up to check). When my mind got to the bottle of sweet chili sauce, it stopped. Ah ha! Okay, shrimp sautéed in sweet chili sauce. But a kilo of shrimp isn't a lot—what can I use to extend it? Ooh, I still have a pack of fish tofu in the freezer. So I get up, take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. And as I do that, I see the carton of quail eggs—that'll do. Better boil those now so they'll have plenty of time to cool—I hate peeling hot hard-boiled eggs and scorching my fingertips. Much later, when the eggs have been boiled, cooled and peeled and it was almost dinner—I expected the cooking time to be less than 30 minutes—I bring out the shrimp, tofu and sweet chili sauce from the refrigerator. My eye gets caught by another bottle of sauce, chili garlic this time. Ooh, that'll add a little more kick to the dish—the sweet chili sauce hardly has any. So there, ingredients complete and all I have to do now is cook everything.

I think almost everyone here can follow the thought process, but I don't think I'll ever be able to describe how I know that one ingredient will taste good with another. Will "You have to imagine how they'll taste like together" help?

Anyway, let's cook the dish now.

Since the tofu pieces were pretty big, I cut each piece into quarters. I also cooked it first because it's not pure tofu and is actually a little starchy so I figured it would need to be cooked longer than the shrimp. In a wok, heat a teaspoon of sesame oil, add a teaspoon of chili garlic sauce, stir until mixed well. Add the tofu and sauté until the pale sides are a bit brown, adding a tablespoon of sweet chili sauce sometime during the sautéing. Set aside.

Add more sesame oil and chili garlic sauce to the wok and sauté the shrimp, with one and a half teaspoons of salt. Add sweet chili sauce during the sautéing. When the shrimp's more than halfway done (that is, it's losing its transparency), add the tofu and continue sautéing. When the shrimp's cooked, add the quail eggs. Toss—lightly, so the eggs won't break—to mix the three main ingredients well and to coat the eggs in the chili sauce (add more chili sauce if necessary).


magiceye said...



Vodka Mom said...

that's it. I'll be RIGHT over. I'll bring the drinks!!!

Z said...

I'm more of a recipe cook, though I change things as I go along. Unfortunately, there are lots of times when the dish turns out very different from what I wanted and then I feel bad. But, one must experiment