Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FREE COOKING: Mai Fun Shrimp

When I first moved to the United States, every time I ate out I would always ask for either a shrimp or a salmon dish. Coming from central São Paulo, sea food were quite expensive, and usually something that you ate only in special occasions. Shrimp in particular was one of my very favorite foods, especially when we traveled to the coast where you would get fresh and tasty sea food.

But I began to notice that shrimp here didn't taste quite like the shrimp I was used to. They were very bland and didn't have that strong taste of the sea that I so loved.  Quickly I began to lose interest in them. 

After being in the US for almost 10 years, I was in for a big surprise when I first returned back to Brazil, and had my very first meal at my sister-in-law's home in Rio de Janeiro. Her maid had prepared a traditional Brazilian dish called "Bobó de Camarão," which is made with shrimp and a delicious creamy tomato and coconut sauce. When I began to eat it, I had no idea what was to come. The shrimp flavor that I had once loved and long forgotten swiftly came bursting into my mouth and memory! I was in love again! As I normally do when I'm eating something I absolutely love, I just could not stop talking about how amazing those shrimp were, and how "now I remember why I loved shrimp so much"! It was the perfect entry into my country of birth. After that, everywhere I went to eat, if I saw shrimp on the menu, I would surely order it!

After returning to the US I continued to not buy or order shrimp, assuming they would all be bland and tasteless. But the other day I decided to give them a try again. Mostly because my husband absolutely loves them, and I can't even recall the last time I cooked them for him. I hadn't had shrimp in over a year, and to my surprise these were actually quite tasty!!!   

Before I thought of the shrimp though, I had seeing a box of Mai Fun Noodles at the grocery store that looked very interesting, and I had never cooked or eaten before! Being in the mood for trying new things, I decided to give them a try, as well as a Pad Thai Asian sauce (classic sweet and tangy noodle sauce as it says on the bottle). To go with them, what better than shrimp? So that's how this dish came to be.   

Here is how things went about:
  • First I let the shrimp defrost in a bowl of cold water
  • Then I boiled the noddles and rinsed them under cold water and set it aside (they cook quickly, so you gotta watch out!
  • After that I cleaned the shrimp, removed shells, etc..and dried them with paper towel.
  • Then I minced lots of garlic and added to a non-stick skillet some oil (I used canola, but you could use peanut or sesame oil if you have it!) and let the garlic cook some. Once they were beginning to brown lightly, I added the shrimp and covered for a few minutes. The KEY thing with shrimp is to NOT overcook it! If you do, they get hard and stale. So as soon as you begin to see some color change, you can uncover them and let the shrimp brown a little bit. Again, careful to not over cook it, keep checking for the consistency and make sure they are not too curled up and still somewhat translucent!
  •  Once shrimp looks cooked but still translucent, you can remove the shrimp and set aside. If you got some good shrimp in your hands they should taste delicious just by like that! Mine were salty, with that sea taste I so love. Hubby and I were in for a treat with them! :)
  • Then I decided to use an extra-firm tofu I had in my fridge that was about to go bad if not used. So I removed all the liquid, then dried it as much as I could with lots of paper towel. Once dry, I crumbled them and put them in the skillet I had just used for the shrimp. I stir-fried it until golden brown. You can add a little more oil if needed to brown the tofu. Once ready, you can set the tofu aside as well. 
  •  In the same skillet I added diced zucchini and carrots (all I had in my fridge for the veggies...need to go to the grocery store soon!),  and began to stir-fry them.
  • Once veggies were good, cooked and a little browned, I removed pan from heat and added the noddles, tofu and began to add the Pai Thai sauce ( added to taste...I put probably 1/4 cup or so), and some Bragg's liquid aminos (you can use soy sauce) to taste as well. 
  • The last thing to add was the shrimp  and herbs. I used parsley and green onions because I "thought" I didn't have cilantro! Turned out I did have some left. But cilantro is the one that to my taste would work really well here. 

It takes lots of different steps, but it's very easy to make and the end result is well worth the effort! This dish turned out great! My husband ended up adding a little hot sauce to it because the Pai Thai sauce turned out not being that spicy. Hubby and I really enjoyed it :)

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