Thu Mar 19, 2020
As food genres go, appetizers are my favorite. It's my favorite in a way that reaches a point of embarrassment for my wife as I hurry us into any cocktail hour as quickly as possible to be the first to storm the table and/or require us to strategically wait by passed hors d'oeuvres entry points to ensure I can get more than my fair share. So when I decided to host my first cocktail party Meatwave, where the menu would be focused exclusively on the type of small bites I crave, I went a little overboard in scope and ambition, but ended up pulling off nine different delicious dishes, and among the top of them were definitely these sriracha shrimp on wonton chips.
This is a multi-component type of recipe, and it started off with the creation of an avocado salsa, whose recipe I got from a longtime favorite blog of mine, Homesick Texan. Roasted tomatillos and Anaheim peppers formed the fruity, tart, and spicy base of this sauce that was given its creamy texture and thickness from avocado and then brightness from lime juice and cilantro.
The next piece of the equation was to make wonton chips. I had made wonton chips earlier in the year to mixed results with some overly greasy, but still tasty, specimens. In that attempt I had used the yellowish, egg-laden Hong Kong wonton wrappers, so this time I switched to the white Shanghai variety. First I needed to cut the wrappers into a size more suitable for shrimp, so used a biscuit cutter to get them into roughly 2 1/4" rounds.
Then into the hot oil they went, and just like my previous wonton chips, these fried up incredibly fast. In just a minute or so they went from pale to golden brown and I had to keep a close eye to avoid them becoming too dark.
Then came the moment of truth as I let them rest on paper towels to drain and I was so pleased to see that these did not retain any oily appearance like my last wonton chips. I'm not sure if was the wrappers, oil, or temperature last time that led to less than stellar results, but I'll be sticking with the Shanghai-style wrappers going forward just to play it safe.
Now onto the shrimp, which I've stopped buying fresh and started going with frozen. I lament the absence of a true butcher in Durham, but while we do have a local fishmonger, I wasn't entirely happy with what I got there previously. So I made the switch to frozen and I think my shrimp have actually tasted fresher ever since doing so, and there's additional plusses that frozen are usually cheaper, easier to get, and only take a few minutes to defrost under running water.
Once I had these shrimp fully thawed, I tossed them with a simple seasoning of salt and light brown sugar with some baking soda tossed in. I then threaded the shrimp onto skewers and let them rest in the fridge for and hour. The salt here acts as a brine, helping the shrimp stay juicy when cooked, while the baking soda helps create a crisper exterior and firmer texture.
While the shrimp rested, I put together the glaze, which was pretty similar to one I created for sriracha wings awhile back. The spicy and garlicky bite of sriracha gets balanced with honey, then given a boost of savoriness by way of soy sauce, and richness from butter. Lime juice and rice vinegar add an acidic touch while I lean on trusty cilantro to do the heavy lifting in the fresh department.
When it was time to cook, I got things started with a fresh batch of charcoal and then laid the shrimp on the grill. These crustaceans only take a couple minutes to cook, so as soon as they were all down, I quickly brushed them all over with the glaze.
Then in the short time they took to turn opaque and cook through, the exterior picked up some nice caramelization and the sauce baked down very well, leaving me with pretty attractive skewers of shrimp.
But these were not destined for on-stick consumption, so next I began the final assembly, which started with squeezing about a tablespoon of salsa onto all the wonton chips and then resting a single shrimp atop each one. Next I garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro, took photos quickly, and served them while still hot.
Longtime readers know I have a seafood aversion, with shrimp actually being one of my least favorite of all the sea creatures I've tried, but damn, I really loved this dish. I found myself popping one after another to keep experiencing that really killer mix of flavors and textures that began with the spicy and savory shrimp whose natural sweetness was boosted by the honey in the glaze. That melded well with the creamy and tart avocado salsa, and these two items from different cultural backgrounds tasted harmonious together. Then came the icing on the cake, that light and airy crunch of the fried wonton, sealing the deal that made these irresistible. For me, this is a prime example of why appetizers are the king of all courses, and I don't think I'll ever be able to tamper my enthusiasm for them, even if that leads to somewhat embarrassing behaviors at social gatherings.
Sriracha Shrimp on Wonton Chips
Salsa recipe adapted from Homesick Texan.
- Prep Time:
- 1 Hour 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 3 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 2 Hours 18 Minutes
- 8-10 servings
- For the Salsa
- 2 Anaheim and Hatch chiles
- 1/2 pound tomatillos, husked and halved
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and roughly diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup water
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Wonton Chips
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil
- 8 ounces small wonton wrappers, cut into 2 1/4" rounds
- For the Glaze
- 1/3 cup sriracha
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- For the Shrimp
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- o make the salsa: Preheat broiler. Roast chiles over an open flame on a gas stove or grill until skins are completely charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cooled, 5-10 minutes. Peel off charred skins; remove stems and seed poblanos. Place tomatillos, cut sides down, on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to broiler and cook until tomatillo skins have charred and flesh has softened completely. Transfer tomatillos to the jar of a blender along with chiles, avocado, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and water. Puree until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Transfer salsa to a squeeze bottle or airtight container. Set aside.
- To make the wonton chips: Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or wok over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F. Adjust flame to maintain temperature. Working in batches, add wontons and fry, agitating with a metal spider, until edges just start to brown. Flip rounds over and continue to cook until crisp and light golden brown. Transfer rounds to a paper towel lined tray, sprinkle with salt to taste, and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes to drain. Repeat with remaining batches. Set aside until ready to use.
- To make the glaze: Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in sriracha, honey, soy sauce, cilantro, lime juice, and vinegar until combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- To Make the Shrimp: In a small bowl, combine salt, brown sugar, and baking powder. Place shrimp in a medium bowl and sprinkle on seasoning mixture. Toss to coat shrimp thoroughly. Thread shrimp onto skewers and lay skewers across edges of a baking dish so shrimp are suspended above bottom of dish. Transfer to refrigerator and rest for 1 hour.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Place shrimp skewers on hot side of grill and brush all over with glaze. Cook until shrimp are almost cooked through, but not fully opaque throughout, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer shrimp to a plate or cutting board and remove from skewers.
- Squeeze roughly 1 tablespoon of salsa onto each wonton round and top with a single shrimp. Garnish with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro. Arrange assembled wontons on a serving platter and serve immediately.