Friday, March 6, 2009

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White Dog and Pink Shrimp

For years, I've been a fan of Indonesia's sweet soy sauce called kecap manis, distant cousin to America's ubiquitous tomato ketchup. Even though it's practically a staple in grocery stores catering to Asian customers in the US, Westerners don't often know the molasses-like sauce. And that's a shame—because a bottle keeps forever in the larder and in a pinch when guests arrive, it lends itself to a lot of different on-the-fly marinades, dips, and even sneaky barbecue sauce.

In particular, I like a simple marinade that's little more than the kecap, melted butter, and lime. Sometimes I doctor it up with ginger or red chiles. And if I happen to have a supply of straight-from-the-still white dog, a dose of moonshine whiskey is liable to go in the sauce, too. No moonshine? That's ok: You could leave it out entirely or, if you have some overproof rum such as J. Wray & Nephew or Lemon Hart 151, use a dose of that instead.

With a few tweaks and optional ingredients, this is my recipe as Fred Thompson used it in his Barbecue Nation (The Taunton Press, 2007).

Bootleg Shrimp

2 lbs 24-26 count shrimp
4 oz unsalted butter
4 oz fresh lime juice
4 oz kecap manis (Heinz ABC brand)
2 oz white dog or overproof rum
1 Tbl fresh ginger, grated (optional)
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

Clean the shrimp, but leave the shells on, rinse them, and set them aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan or skillet. If using, add the red pepper and ginger. Simmer briefly to extract their flavor. Remove from heat (remember, kids: high-proof liquor is flammable) and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

Add half this marinade to the shrimp, toss to coat, and set aside for 20-30 minutes while heating the grill. Grill the marinated shrimp 2-3 minutes per side (in two batches if necessary) until pink and showing a little char on their shells. Dump them in a large communal bowl and serve with the remaining half of the sauce (heated) for dipping on the side.

Lots of towels. Make some rice or bread to go with.

Nah, I'm not shilling Heinz products. It's just that ABC is good and—at less than a cup of Starbucks coffee—the 21-oz bottles are cheap. According to Business Week ("The Ketchup King Prospers" by Matthew Boyle, 8 Sept 2008), ABC is the second-largest soy sauce company in the world, second only to Japanese behemoth Kikkoman. With over $200 million in sales (2007), it's a good bet there's some in your neighborhood. If not, you could swap out sorghum or cane syrup such as Steen's. Won't be the same, but I'm happy to come over and try the results.



Rumela said...

My father is a huge fan of bootleg shrimp and I always try to make it for him whenever we see my parents. He has yet to be fully blown away by any of the recipes i've tried. Simplicity is key, and yours looks perfect! Can't wait to try it. thank you for shearing your post.

Matthew Rowley said...

Rumela ~

I hope it meets your father's standards! Obviously, as simple as this recipe is, it can very easily be adapted to ingredients you have on hand. Lemongrass would not be a horrible addition and it's hard to beat the straightforward garlic/chile combination. But try the 3-ingredient version first and see what you think.