Spicy chili crisp adds flavor and depth to this starter or main
Shrimp-and-grits is a classic dish from the southern US – and one we love. We also love Asian-style shrimp stir fried with chili sauce. So why not combine them?
This Asian-Style Shrimp and Grits would make a great starter, with piquant flavor that can wake up any taste bud. Or you could serve this dish as the main event. Because it’s so tasty that a starter portion might not be enough to satisfy you.
And it’s good to be satisfied.
Recipe: Asian-Style Shrimp and Grits
We use chili crisp in this dish. That’s an ingredient we also used in our recipe for Roast Grapes and Chili Crisp Dip (or Spread). Chili crisp is spicy with a bit of a crunch (hence the “crisp”). Its flavor resembles that of Asian chili sauce, but with more depth and a bit less heat.
No chili crisp on hand? Just substitute any Asian chili sauce. We’d vote for chili garlic sauce. But in a pinch, even sriracha would work. Just adjust the amount you use to your tolerance for spicy hot.
For this dish, we use quick grits, which cook in 5 to 10 minutes. Regular grits (particularly stone-ground) take longer to cook; their flavor, particularly the stone-ground, is a bit better, but not enough to be a factor in this dish. Avoid instant grits – they just aren’t very good.
Prep time for this dish is about 20 minutes, cooking time a bit less. So you can have this on your plate, start-to-finish, in no more than 40 minutes.
This recipe yields 4 appetizer-sized servings or 2 main-course servings.
- 8 ounces de-veined, shelled shrimp (frozen or not; see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- salt to taste for marinating the shrimp (a few pinches of kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 cups water (for cooking the grits)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt for seasoning the grits (see Notes)
- ½ cup quick-cooking grits (not instant; see headnote)
- 1 red bell pepper, cleaned and cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 bunch of scallions, cleaned and chopped into short pieces (see Notes)
- ~1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ~½ inch piece of peeled ginger, minced finely
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili crisp (to taste; we often use a touch more)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 additional tablespoon dry sherry
- ¾ cup chicken stock (or more, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water (optional)
- garnish of green scallion rounds (optional)
- Begin by marinating the shrimp: Place the shrimp (thawed beforehand if using frozen) in a small bowl, then add 1 tablespoon sherry and salt to taste. Marinate the shrimp for at least 5 minutes (up to 15) while you prep the veggies.
- When ready to cook the shrimp: Remove them from the marinade and shake them dry. Heat 2 tablespoons cooking oil in a large frying pan (or wok). When the oil is hot (it’ll shimmer), add the shrimp and cook until they’re just done (maybe 2 minutes, depending on size). It’s OK if the shrimp are slightly underdone – they’ll cook more later. Remove the cooked shrimp and drain them on a plate lined with a paper towel. Leave the cooking oil in the pan.
- Meanwhile, start cooking the grits: Add the water to a 2-quart saucepan. Add salt, then bring the water to a boil. Slowly add the grits, stirring with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to a slight simmer and cover the saucepan. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Stir the grits 2 or 3 times while they cook. When the grits are done, remove them from the heat and set aside.
- As the grits are cooking, sauté the veggies: Add the chopped red bell pepper and scallions to the frying pan. Sauté (stir fry) for 2 minutes. Then add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the chili crisp, soy sauce, additional dry sherry, and chicken stock to the frying pan. Simmer for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture to reduce somewhat.
- Taste, then add more chili crisp if you want a spicier dish. Add the cooked shrimp back to the frying pan and reheat them (30 seconds or so).
- Remove the frying pan from the heat. If you want a thicker sauce, stir in the optional corn starch/water mixture.
- Ready to serve: Spoon a dollop of cooked grits on each plate. Spoon the shrimp stir-fry mixture on top, adding a little extra sauce. Garnish with some green scallion rounds, if you wish.
- In the process of making this dish, we discovered that grits make a terrific blank canvas for Asian-style dishes. So feel free to experiment.
- What kind of shrimp to use for this dish? We prefer shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which we purchase frozen. We can get fresh shrimp where we live, but we tend to prefer frozen because the good brands freeze the shrimp right after they’re harvested. So we find that they actually taste better than fresh shrimp.
- What size shrimp to use? Whatever you prefer. For this dish, we like to use shrimp with a count of 16 or so to the pound.
- You can skip the marinating stage (Step 1) if you prefer. It does add a bit of flavor to the shrimp, but just a bit.
- You could also cook the shrimp near the end of the process if you wish. Just add them in Step 6, extending the cooking time until the shrimp are cooked (about 2 minutes for thawed/fresh shrimp, another minute or so for shrimp that are still frozen).
- Dry sherry has a similar flavor to Chinese rice wine. We use sherry just so we don’t have an extra ingredient on hand. If you don't have sherry on hand, just skip it (we suggest adding a bit more soy sauce in that case).
- Grits are quite similar to Italian polenta, so you could substitute polenta in this dish if you prefer. The difference between the two? American grits are usually made from hominy, which is dried corn (maize) that has been treated with an alkali (typically slaked lime).
- Both grits and polenta can be made from white or yellow corn, although grits are more often made from white corn, polenta from yellow.
- We always figure on 1 cup liquid for each ¼ cup grits. A quarter cup of grits will yield a very generous serving. So the ½ cup grits we call for in this recipe yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer-sized.
- You could substitute rice for grits in this dish (rice being a more typical base for Asian dishes). But we find that grits really work in this recipe, so we suggest giving them a try. The downside is that we find it impossible to eat grits with chopsticks. So if using chopsticks is necessary to your happiness when eating Asian-style dishes, rice might be the ticket for you.
- You could substitute yellow or orange bell pepper for red if you prefer. You could try green bell pepper too, although we think its flavor wouldn’t work as well in this dish.
- About the scallions: We use all of the white part and much of the green in this dish (reserving some of the green rounds for garnish). We don’t use the last 2 or 3 inches of the green part, which tends to be tough. We usually cut the white part of the scallions into lengths of an inch or so and cut the green part into rounds of about ¼ inch.
- A slurry of corn starch and water works great for thickening the sauce. We sometimes use it, sometimes don’t – it really depends on our mood that day.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yumm-o,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I may need seconds on this.”
“I’ll even share some of mine,” I said. “Don’t want to be shellfish.”
“You’re prawn to bad jokes,” said Mrs K R.
“I thought that one was shrimply irresistible,” I said.
“Now I’m gritting my teeth,” said Mrs K R.
Guess she doesn’t get my so-fish-ticated humor.
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