Posted by: Rachel | July 31, 2011

paradise enow…

Slowly, oh so slowly, I am working my way through the menu at the new little Thai place that opened near my house. My question to you is, if you eat it near home does that make it local? Never mind, I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that…

Anyway, its rough, but I feel it is my duty and only fair to try everything that has less than 2 chili peppers on their menu (yes, I’m a wimp, but you knew that already, didn’t you?). I think it is important to avoid that “pad thai, please” rut, don’t you agree? No matter how good it is? (Theirs is really really good!)

So, I was there with a friend and in perusing the appetizer menu I noticed “Shrimp Paradise”. They describe it as “Crispy shrimp with our special homemade sauce, served with a green salad”. Several flags went up. First, how many shrimp? I mean, I’m happy to share (usually) but would this require Solomon’s wisdom to come out even? Second, I’m a tad leery and vastly curious about anything labeled “special homemade sauce”… its not that I don’t like surprises, its just that I like to have a clue about what I’m ordering, to get my mouth ready.

I took a small leap of faith as I’d never had a bad meal there, and I’m glad I did. Oh my. Six beautiful big shrimp, perfectly fried in a light tempura batter, atop a good helping of mixed greens with a smattering of tomatoes and sliced cucumber, dressed with a “sauce” like nothing I’ve ever had.

Now understand that in my lifetime so far I have eaten my weight in Thai food, I’m sure, and loved pretty much every bite. And, I thought I knew the Thai “palate” for spices, sauces, and soups. This, though, was delicious, unexpected, and a perfect lunch starter for another over-100 degree day in central Texas.

The “sauce” makes this dish. It is sweet, tart, creamy, and astonishing. I have come pretty close to recreating it and that is what I am here to share with you today. Oh my…

I have looked at a variety of “Thai sauce” recipes online, but I have not found anything that comes close to this. I’m sure it is out there somewhere, but everything I saw was much more complex in flavor and instructions. This was a simple dressing; I’ve made it (or something fairly close) with just three ingredients.

Here’s the thing. This sauce is (as far as I can tell), just (just!!?) sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and oil (canola or some other unflavored light oil). Wow… so easy and something I would never have thought of!

Now if you’ve read my blog for a while you know this, but if you are a new visitor, I’ll tell you – I don’t deep fry. This has nothing to do with health concerns; I’m afraid of hot oil. I love deep fried most anything, but I won’t do it at home. So, my version is (possibly) a bit better for you, really, really fast to make, and no pots of hot oil required. Here’s what I did.

Paradisiacal Shrimp

(per person)
5 or 6 large shrimp
1 small clove of garlic, chopped fine
olive oil to sauté

several good handfuls of mixed baby greens
chopped tomato
sliced cucumber
1 small kefir lime leaf (optional)
fresh basil, several leaves, chiffonaded

shrimp cooking

ahhh garlic! mmmm...

“special sauce”:
1/2 C fresh squeezed lime juice
1 T oil
sweetened condensed milk to taste

In a medium pan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic, and sauté until barely golden. Add the shrimp and cook, just a few minutes, until done. Remove from heat.

finished plated salad

hot cold annnd sweeeeet! mmm...

Plate the salad, top with the hot shrimp and any pan juices and garlic, basil, and finely chopped baby kefir lime leaf. Drizzle with “special sauce”.

Special Sauce: In a glass jar with a tight lid (I use an old jam jar), make an emulsion of the lime juice and the oil. It should be quite tart, and not very “oily”. Add the sweetened condensed milk to taste. The final dressing should be thick and tangy-sweet; the degree of sweet is, of course, up to you.
***

I now have an ongoing jar of this sauce in my fridge. It seems to keep for days and is awfully good as a dipping sauce for leftover cold cooked chicken, and not bad just on a spoon… Mine isn’t quite as good as theirs, so I’m at the restaurant as often as possible, enjoying the original version. If you happen to live anywhere within, oh, 100 miles of Austin I recommend theirs, highly! If not, give my version a try and let us know what you think! Mmmm…

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Responses

  1. I can second your opinion about the food at the Thai place you mentioned. (I’ll bet your secret sauce is just as good as theirs.) But, boy, does their web site need some serious SEO help.

  2. I think theirs is better, but mine is available as a DIY project… until they bottle and ship theirs, anyway :-). MMMmmmmmm!

  3. Ok, so I think I´m just a few thousand km too far for a visit, so will use your reciope instead! We can get fabulous shrimp here and not too expensive and as we don´t have a Thai restaurant anywhere that I know…and as I adore and miss Thai food….I think we know what I´ll be trying out in the next week or so!

    • Let us know what you think! Hope you enjoy it… mmmm!

  4. Sweeten condensed milk. How clever to have figured that ingredient out. I would probably have still been trying to solve the recipe. Thank you.

    • Not clever at all. It has a very specific taste (sweetened condensed milk I mean). I love it – I use it in my coffee! And anyway, shameless girl that I am, I asked them what was in the sauce!

      • Now you are clever…you asked. I like to cook Thai and will make your sauce.

  5. Those prawns do look amazing!

    • Fast, fast, and easy… and we do get good shrimp from the Gulf! Let us know if you try this one, OK? Goes great with Thai iced coffee… or iced hibiscus/mint tea.

  6. mmmm….mmmm, delicious …. and Rachel makes it look so easy too. Thanks for the detailed notes – also love your suggestion to use the sauce with chicken … I might try it on a fresh fruit salad too.

    • Oh I like the fruit salad idea. I often do a sort of lemon/honey/balsamic thing for fruit, but this would be yummy I think. Good idea!! Maybe I’ll try some in my next smoothie… hmmm. Mmmm!

  7. i love making soup this sounds delicious!!!

  8. Thanks for visiting! No soup this week, maybe next time… what kind do you like?

  9. I like fried prawns with any kind of sauce, so long as it’s not too hot. I haven’t had condensed milk since I was a child, but this sounds interesting and may tempt me to try it after all these years! I don’t like deep-frying either, for safety reasons, but I find that using a wok helps as the surface area is large so the oil is less likely to overheat.

  10. This is not hot at all, just refreshing. It is a bit surprising, but I am smitten with it. Let us know if you do try it… and what you think! I have never been seriously burned, but hot oil scares me. I’m happy to go out and eat fried with fried with fried, but at home we sauté 🙂 Still makes me plenty happy… and I can add more garlic that way!

  11. And what is the restaurant?

    • Did “Thai place” not show up as a link in the text? Hmmm.. what browser/vehicle are you using? (Ain’t technology fun?) Anyway, the restaurant is IMThai in Sunset Valley (http://imthaicuisine.com/).

  12. How rare is Thai food in the Vendee? Nearly as rare as sweetened condensed milk. I think it took the Vietnam war for condensed milk to enter Thai/Vietnamese cooking. Forget the raging – i’m sure it’s delicious, and the pics are excellent.

    • Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the kind words about my pictures! I discovered that, in France, you can buy sweetened condensed milk in tubes (like tooth paste but tastier ;-)). Smart packaging I think. Wish it was available that way here!


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