The recipe: Shrimp salad
Why I tried it: By the time I got to this recipe, I had discovered the joys of Shallot Oil (see recipe accompanying the shrimp salad recipe). I was willing to try anything dosed with shallot oil, and this was an easy one to try. Also, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use shrimp, one of my favorite ingredients.
Why I loved it: Cool, crisp, and a flash to put together. The shrimp slices have plenty of exposed surface area to pick up flavors, and I never tire of the endless spectrum of ways fish sauce and lime seem to go together.
Estimated preparation time: 15 minutes if you’ve already got the Shallot Oil or are just using plain oil. The Shallot Oil takes about 20 minutes.
2 tablespoons peanut oil or Shallot Oil (see below)
About 1 pound medium to large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
3 scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 medium English cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 green or red cayenne chile, minced, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
About 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Place a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then toss in the shrimp and stir-fry just until they turn pink, a minute or two.
Transfer the shrimp to a cutting board. Slice on the diagonal and place in a shallow bowl. Add the scallions.
Cut the cucumber into 11/2-inch lengths and slice each length into julienne (you should have a scant cup). Add the cucumber, coriander, and chile to the shrimp and toss lightly. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and toss to mix well.Taste and add a little salt if you wish, then toss and serve immediately.
Fried Shallots and Shallot Oil
Makes a generous ¾ cup flavored oil and about 1 ¼ cups fried shallots
Here you get two pantry staples in one: crispy fried shallots and delicious shallot oil. Drizzle shallot oil on salads or freshly cooked greens, or onto soups to finish them. You can fry up shallots each time you need them, but I prefer to make a large batch so they’re around when I need a handful to flavor a salad.
1 cup peanut oil
2 cups (about 1/2 pound) thinly sliced Asian or European shallots
Place a wide heavy skillet or a large stable wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Toss in a slice of shallot. As the oil heats, it will rise to the surface, sizzling lightly. When it’s reached the surface, add the rest of the shallots, carefully, so you don’t splash yourself with the oil, and lower the heat to medium. (The shallots may seem crowded, but they’ll shrink as they cook.) Stir gently and frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon or a spider. The shallots will bubble as they give off their moisture. If they start to brown early, in the first 5 minutes, lower the heat a little more. After about 10 minutes, they should start to color. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan or to each other, until they have turned a golden brown, another 3 minutes or so.
Line a plate with paper towels. Use tongs or a spider to lift a clump of fried shallots out of the oil, pausing for a moment to shake off excess oil into the pan, then place on the paper towel. Turn off the heat, transfer the remaining shallots to the plate, and blot gently with another paper towel. Separate any clumps and toss them a little, then let them air-dry 5 to 10 minutes, so they crisp up and cool. (If your kitchen is very hot and humid, they may not crisp up; don’t worry, the flavor will still be there.)
Transfer the shallots to a clean, dry, widemouthed glass jar. Once they have cooled completely, seal tightly. Transfer the oil to another clean dry jar, using all but the very last of it, which will have some stray pieces of shallot debris. (You can set that oil aside for stir-frying.) Once the oil has cooled completely, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place.
Excerpted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books) Copyright © 2012.