my grandfather appreciated food.
likely, too much.
upon further reflection
i cannot decide what he loved more:
the sweet or the savory.
let’s say he liked both,
and the everything in between.
he enjoyed all the bad things that caused
his cholesterol to spike:
sunny side up eggs
liver, specifically my grandmother’s homemade pâté
seafood, in particular fried and heavily salted
this week marks a year since his passing.
in the last 12 months,
at the most random moments,
i will turn to dw and say:
oh gpa would love this dish!
gpa loved him some spice and salt.
more often than not
my memories of him are about food.
in memory of him,
i made one of his favorite dishes,
a dish we grandchildren would sneak to him
as it was something gma would expressly forbid him from having.
tôm rang muối – vietnamese salt & pepper shrimp
adapted from Luke Nguyen
*note: this is inauthentic, in that i did not deep-fry the shrimp. click on the link if you want to make it the “correct” way. i broiled them super quick in the oven. to keep the shrimp on the side of under-done, i worked quickly, make sure your mise-en-place is done accordingly.
**note: also, this dish is best with head on but the local Whole Foods doesn’t carry it. asian markets will carry head on prawns, but it’s not guaranteed organic and/or sustainably caught.
***note: this is a finger food, meant to be consumed in a group, with ice-cold beers and plenty of napkins. which is why, dw and i ate with a side of carrot+celery salad and brown rice, with chopsticks.
1/2 lb prawns, with head on, or in our case, large shrimp, cleaned/deveined, careful to keep shell on
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup give or take corn starch or potato starch
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
1/4 red onion, diced
2 green scallions, sliced on the diagonal
drizzle of oil
lemon or lime wedges, optional
first, preheat oven to highest it’ll go, broil or in my case, 550F.
next, prep everything and have all the ingredients ready to go. clean/devein the shrimp. there were some shrimps that lost their shell because i was a little indelicate but it was a price i was willing to pay to not eat poop. wandering chopsticks has a pic tutorial you can refer to. pat dry the shrimp.
dry roast the salt, ground pepper and 5 spice powder. (NOTE: you will not be using ALL of the blend in this recipe). set aside to cool. when cool, mix in the sugar.
line a shallow cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. if using foil, oil it. dust the shrimp with potato or corn starch. or you can do it my lazy way, holding by the tail, dip the shrimp into the starch and shake semi-vigorously to let loose excess powder. lay on the prepared sheet. broil in oven for TWO MINUTES.
meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat up a drizzle of oil on medium high. saute the garlic, onion, green scallions and jalapeno. you’re aiming for fragrance, not so much burning or caramelization. this can be anywhere from 3-5 minutes. which means, in the middle of this sauteing you’re doing, you need to take the shrimp out of the oven. make haste. set aside the shrimp. when the onions and garlic have softened, add in the shrimp. WORK QUICKLY. sprinkle the shrimp with a few teaspoons of the salt/sugar/pepper/five spice mixture. (i ended up using 3 teaspoons, season to your taste). gently mix everything, heating the shrimp through. REMOVE from heat. this step should take 2 minutes, 3 minutes TOPS.
the end result should be on the dry side, unless you’re like me and gpa and got a little generous with the drizzle of oil.
serve with lemon or lime wedges.
last year’s gpa post: citrus curd mille-feuille
1 year ago: spiced coconut pecan ice cream
2 years ago: portuguese chicken curry with chorizo + olives
26 thoughts on “salt & pepper shrimp – tôm rang muối”
Awww such a cute story. Thank you for sharing the story of your gpa and this dish. I like the idea of eating with fingers and beer but also the idea of this with chopsticks and rice.
Cholesterol is a funny thing. The myths around it shift every every few years. They say now days that seafood and eggs don’t affect cholesterol in our blood if we eat them. I bet your gpa would be happy to know that.
thanks genie. there ‘s always some kind of varying viewpoints on what is good vs what isn’t. everything in moderation!
Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. Your grandpa would definitely be proud of this dish 🙂
you are kind Jenn, thank you.
Such a sweet tribute to your grandfather. I’m sure he would have loved this! And your photos are beautiful, too.
chaya, thank you so much.
This is a perfect summer dish. I can’t wait to make it…and to honor your gpa when we enjoy it.
wendi, let me know how it goes!
This sounds SO tasty, and such a sweet way to remember your gpa. He sounds like my kind of guy, for sure! The jalapenos here look so good! xoxo
thanks sophie. the peppers really gives the dish a kick.
What gorgeous photographs and what beautiful memories you have of him. I love the idea of sneaking him dishes, the way we would sneak steak to grandpa. I was very close with my grandpa and losing him changed everything for me. I still miss him all the time and think of him whenever I add salt to a dish, leave skin on a chicken, have a pastrami sandwich and beer. What a great way to honor your grandpa. xo
thank you amanda. it’s so amazing just how much our g-parents shaped us, isn’t it?
Aw, what sweet memories of your gpa. Your gpa sounds a lot like my gpa. He ate without apology and lived to 95. 🙂 I’m sure he would have love these shrimp, (the fried version). The next time I find some good looking shrimp I’ll definitely be making this. Thanks for sharing Lan!
oh gawd, i love the fried version too! and next time i’m at a true authentic vietnamese restaurant, i will order it. until then, i gotta do the broiled version.
This (and spicy salt and pepper squid) are two of my favourite things to eat. Drooling.
Some of my best food memories involve my grandparents: they teach us so much around the table.
yes to spicy salt & pepper squid!
and i agree, grandparents provide such a different, but equally good, education around the table.
I love this tribute to your grandpa. So beautiful. And these shrimp — holy crap. They look amazing. I love that they’re broiled instead of fried — I want to try this ASAP!
dw also loves that i broiled this instead of fried, because the kitchen would’ve been a WRECK. plus, i should not be trusted around frying oil.
Hi Lan, your grandfather sounds very special, sounds like you have wonderful ,memories of him. Have a great week-end!
hi Cheri — thank you, i do have such great memories with him.
Thanks for sharing. This is one of my favorite dishes but I’ve always been scared to make it.