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.
5 or 6 large shrimp
1 small clove of garlic, chopped fine
olive oil to sauté
several good handfuls of mixed baby greens
1 small kefir lime leaf (optional)
fresh basil, several leaves, chiffonaded
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.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…