Hey everyone! Hope you had a great Valentine's Day (or Singles Appreciation Day). Cat and I spent another wonderful evening at 6ix Park Grill in Irvine, which is our favorite special occasion restaurant. I highly recommend it to anyone in the area. They went above and beyond this year. I would have taken some pictures, but I was "off-duty". Instead, you can read about prior visits here and here.
It's a commonly held misconception that barbecuing is something done when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. It seems like every gerbil-faced, smarmy, television food personality starts putting out their "grilling with friends" special during the balmy summer months. To these people, I say, "Wuss!". Grilling is the providence of real men who light up whenever the primordial craving for blood, meat, and fire stirs in their souls. It's a burning in the veins can't be denied. 120°F out? Grab a piece of cardboard and crack a cold beer. Sky pissing cats and dogs? That piece of cardboard is your friend, snowflake. The wind is too high? Baby, the wind is your best friend. It makes coals hotter. What's your excuse now?
Since little or no fat is involved, grilling is one of the healthiest cooking methods available. It's also highly versatile. With proper planning and a little ingenuity, you can grill almost anything at any time and in any place. Don't believe me? I often grill up and pack this lunch before work. Nothing like a warm bento box with steamed rice and Grilled Tamarind Shrimp. All you need to do is free your mind. Don't box yourself into weekend afternoons during the summer. Leave those frozen hamburgers and pressure-formed franks in the mega mart for some other poor schmuck. Anything. Any time. Any place.
Grilled Tamarind Shrimp
1 paring knife
1 mixing bowl
2 metal or bamboo skewers
1 basting brush
1 BBQ lighter or long match
Match-light charcoal briquettes
1 lb of large shrimp (I like jumbo prawns)
3 tbsp of tamarind pulp
3 tbsp of kecap manis
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of Chinese garlic chili paste
1/2 cup of water
Prep work (night before):
- De-vein the shrimp without removing the shells. The shells will protect the shrimp from the direct heat applied during grilling and also add a lot of flavor. I eat these suckers shells and all.
- Soak the tamarind paste in water. Once soft, work the tamarind and water into a thick sauce. Remove any tamarind seed bits.
- Add the kecap manis, sugar, and Chinese garlic chili paste to the sauce. Mix well.
- Add the shrimp to the sauce and toss until evenly coated. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- If using bamboo skewers, soak in water overnight.
Instructions (morning of):
These instructions assume that you're cooking with a charcoal grill. If you're using propane or a stovetop cast iron grill pan, set the heat to medium-high 8-10 minutes before you begin cooking. The whole process should take 20-30 minutes.
- Stack two large handfuls of match-light charcoal briquettes in a pyramid shape on one side of your grill and light them. Although I prefer lump charcoal, I use match-light for morning grilling because they're ready faster and require less finessing.
- Fire up your rice cooker and get it going.
- Make some coffee. Drink it.
- Brush your teeth. Shave. Yes, I do both in the yard. If you're comfy leaving an open flame burning unattended, be my guest. As for me, it's my damn yard and I'll brush my teeth in it if I want to. I find it rather refreshing.
- Once the briquettes are white (see the picture above), spread them out along one side of the barbecue. I use a pair of metal tongs for this, but you can use whatever you like. DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS. Fit the grill in place on top.
- Remove the shrimp from their marinade and thread onto skewers. I use two skewers and thread the shrimp across them like ties on a railroad track (see top picture). It makes them easier to flip and control. Leave about a quarter-inch of space between each shrimp.
- At this point, the grill should be nice, hot, and ready for shrimp. Constantly brush the shrimp with their marinade while they cook. Jumbo prawns take about 3-5 minutes a side. Smaller shrimp will take less time.
- Pack the shrimp with freshly steamed rice in an insulated lunch box and you're good to go. You might want to catch a quick shower, though, unless you like smelling like tasty barbecue smoke. Some people do.
- Remember to put out the coals!