2, Dec 2007
Shrimp “Clay Pot”

Taking our Hoi An cooking school clay pot recipe as inspiration, I decided to do my own clay-pot-ish thing. My main idea was to use the idea from that recipe of simmering water with smashed lemongrass in it for flavor. It was snowing and I didn’t want to go to the store, so the recipe was based on what I had in the house. In case you’re wondering why I chose this combination of flavors. It was pretty good!

2 c water
1/2 sweet potato, peeled quartered and sliced
6-8 oz shrimp
1/2 white onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 tomato, food-processor-ized
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red annatto powder
1/2 tsp lemongrass powder
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and smashed
1″ piece of ginger, smashed
1 red jalapeno pepper, sliced and seeds removed (leave in for more heat)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce

Put the water, lemongrass, and ginger in a large saucepan on high, and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potato pieces. Turn down to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the onion, shallot, and jalapeno, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce, fish sauce, and spices and continue to simmer, to reduce to a thicker consistency. When it’s almost to the consistency you want, turn the heat up and add the shrimp. Let it simmer away until the shrimp are done, a few minutes. Serve over rice.
The flavor was good, though not strongly lemongrassy — the ginger and jalapeno probably had something to do with that. I’ll try it again with just lemongrass for a more focused dish. I think the flavor could have been a bit more intense, and I would have liked the dish to be a bit darker — it was mostly light tomato red. I’m not sure how much the annatto and lemongrass powder added; I added the annatto mostly to intensify the color. I think stir-frying the onion and shallot first would probably also intensify the flavor. Or maybe the best route is to do what I usually do with soup: first saute the flavorful stuff in a little oil, then add the water and proceed from there. I like the general technique though, and will probably do more dishes along these lines.