Fire and Ice

Today’s presentation captures summer’s swelter, then plunges it deeply to the cool depths below.  Just as these flavors bring diverse tastes, inspiration is equally varied, with the shrimp prepared in a manner favored in Bali, while the coleslaw takes its cues from Thailand.  Many recent entries have visited Southeast Asia, and while the pressing humidity certainly suggests the region, this blog will start wandering again soon.  Promise.

One last stop for now, though, while the sun still is perfect for outdoor activities, including grilling.  In fact, when Bon Appetit featured Grilled Shrimp with Fiery Lemongrass-Chile Sambal in its July 2009 issue, this had to be part of summer’s finale.  The shrimp is marinated in and basted with a firecracker of a sauce, rich with peppers.  They contribute the fire our title advertises, while shallots and garlic emphasize the theme with their own animated tingle.

Ginger and lemongrass use flavor to moderate this, and couple tablespoons of sugar adds even more balance.  Still, as you may gather, the sauce definitely kicks.  What a wonderful way to emphasize the shrimp’s naturally sweet succulence, and to draw it out in a spirited medley.

All this heat needs to be relieved somehow, and what better way than with a crisp, cool coleslaw, a deep drink from a tall glass?  Specifically, the version that was shown recently in Christopher Kimball’s new magazine Milk Street. The August 2018 issue highlights an idea from a Boston-area Thai restaurant and  features coconut milk, cilantro and snap peas, plus other ingredients that sooth and relax.

Above all, though, is the mint.  The same mint that shades a glistening brook as it slices through a hot summer day.  The same mint that grows in the herb garden:MINTThis was a recent addition.  Though the shrimp had been planned for months now, it was only recently that a coleslaw, so much more refreshing –  and better –  than the standard version, became an option.  In the end, it’s a perfect companion for a spicy grilled shrimp, emphasizing flavor over heat.

The platter is so evocative of the Indian Ocean, where jungled volcanic shores rise from the sea.  Fire and ice.


Grilled Shrimp with Fiery Lemongrass-Chile Sambal

For the sambal:

  • 6 Thai bird chilis or 2 serrano chilis, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped and peeled ginger
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bottom 4 inches, chopped
  • 6 macadamia nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar (*1)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (*2)
  • 1 cup water

For the marinade and shrimp:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (*3)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (*4)
  • 3 pounds large shrimp

Put all sambal ingredients but the last two (i.e., all but the water and the oil) in a food processor.  Pulse until a paste forms.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it shimmers.  Add the sambal, stirring constantly, until it’s lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the water and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed.  Pour the sambal into a bowl to let it cool, then cover the bowl and refrigerate it.

Whisk together lime juice, oil and two tablespoons of the sambal.  Once this is combined, incorporate this into the main sambal.  Skewer the shrimp if desired and brush it generously with the sambal.  Let marinated shrimp sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to half an hour.

Grill the shrimp over medium-high flame for about three minutes per side, brushing both sides liberally with marinade throughout.  Transfer the shrimp to a platter and serve.


1 – Palm sugar, if you have it, is even better.  If it isn’t available, brown sugar still is fine.

2 – As with most East Asian cuisines, peanut oil is a better match.

3 – One medium-to-large lime will produce enough juice, if you roll it before cutting it, pressing down lightly.

4 – See Note 2.


Thai-Style Coleslaw with Mint and Cilantro

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 medium serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 5 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage, sliced thinly crosswise
  • 6 radishes, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced thinly on the bias
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup cashews, coarsely chopped (*6)

Mix together the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and chili and let stand for 10 minutes.  Whisk in the coconut milk until combined.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the cabbage, radishes, peas, cilantro and mint.  Add the dressing and toss, then stir in the nuts and serve.


6 – Instead of cashews I used macadamia nuts, as it anticipates what’s in the shrimp marinade.


2 thoughts on “Fire and Ice

  1. The combination of the fiery shrimps and the cool, sweet coleslaw must be lucious. A bite of coleslaw now and then to soothe the taste buds and to balance the shrimp’s spice is a great idea. And mint is a great addition to counter the heat. Fantastic recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks much for your continued interest and thoughtful comments; they’re even more rewarding than uncovering an intriguing recipe! In this attempt, the contrasting elements tend to emphasize and develop each other, in a wonderfully vital sense. What vivid dreams they stir too. Close your eyes and imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

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