7, Jul 2007
Vietnamese Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers

So I had the idea somehow of stuffing peppers with a sort of vietnamese-flavored paste of, like, shrimp and stuff. The basic idea sort of formed in my mind, and then I just picked up the ingredients and made it up as I went along. The basic elements are: stuffed jalepenos, ground-up shrimp, and a sort of peanut sauce of peanuts, oil, and fish sauce. I might as well say up front that it was a failure, but an interesting one, and I’ll reuse at least some parts of the recipe, maybe the whole idea with a few changes.

16 jalapeno peppers (green, red, and/or yellow)
12 oz shrimp, raw; shells, veins, and tails removed
1/8 c fish sauce
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 c roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 c granulated sugar
1-2 tsp ground black pepper

1. prepare the peppers
I generally prefer red (i.e. ripe) peppers to green or yellow (unripe) ones. however, the red ones tend to be smaller and scrawnier, and can be harder to stuff than the larger greens and yellows. for each pepper, lay it flat on a cutting board, and cut a slit from near the stem to 1cm or so from the tip. at each end, make a crosswise cut about halfway through the pepper; the three cuts together should form an “I” shape. fold back the two flaps (like bomb-bay doors on a plane) and cut out the ribs and seeds, scraping as much as possible out of the inside with the knife or a small fork. you may want to save the seeds for the future. this method works fairly well for larger, rounder peppers but can be a pain with smaller ones. another way of doing the peppers is to chop the top off, cut down inside along the ribs, and scoop and scrape out the insides. by the way, while you’re handling all those pepper seeds, don’t forget to keep your fingers away from your eyes and other sensitive areas. update: actually, just wear gloves.
2. prepare the filling
grind the garlic in a food processor and put it aside. grind the peanuts in the food processor until there aren’t many large chunks and a lot of the nuts are powder. add in the olive oil and pulse a few times to mix, giving a peanut butter consistency. add the fish sauce and sugar and pulse to mix. remove to a bowl and mix in the garlic and black pepper. clean out the food processor. pulse the shrimp until ground into a sort of paste. combine with the peanut butter mix.
3. stuff and bake
stuff each pepper to the brim with the filling mix. if the peppers are cut bomb-bay door style, press them shut and scrape off any extra filling that oozes out. lay the peppers out on the rack of a roasting pan lined with foil. bake in the oven at 300 for 30 minutes. let cool and eat.
unfortunately, they were totally inedible. it turns out, which I should have expected, a jalapeno is too hot to just pop in your mouth, even if you do scrape out all the ribs and seeds. one was enough to have me diving for something to drink — though I don’t have the highest pepper tolerance; if you do, you might enjoy the experience. but even that aside, they weren’t really the easiest to eat. the peppers are still kind of tough and take some biting, which tends to squeeze out the filling. I checked some stuffed pepper recipes, and they all involve blanching the peppers first; I should try that.
aside from the pepper issues, the filling itself was pretty good. when it was still hot, it didn’t seem to have much flavor, but once the peppers had cooled, the filling had a good flavor of shrimp and peanut. it would make a good filling for a wonton or spring roll, or some kind of fried patty (I actually tried patties with the excess filling, with mixed results). still, I’d like to experiment to bring out the shrimp and peanut a bit more and give a stronger hint of the other flavors. I’d also thought about adding cilantro, green onion, and/or red onion.
I think for a next try I’ll do it with milder peppers. I don’t want to use bell peppers though — they’re too big, and I want it to be more like a finger food. anaheims or poblanos maybe. I might also try the filling in wontons, or making little meatballs to eat with noodles, or in a pho-type dish. the peanut sauce, before adding the garlic and shrimp, was also pretty tasty — like a peanut sauce or peanut butter, but the sugar and fish sauce gives it a definite vietnamese slant. it would be good with noodles.