Spicy Curried Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Peanut Sauce

“What good is our best dish if we have not friends to share it with?” – Stephen Charoo, 2013

will cook for friends

With this quote in mind, I can’t say enough how much I love to cook for loved ones. There is just something eerily euphoric when I see the reactions from a well received dish of my creation.

That said, my good friend Jo-Anne and I have been plotting to have a cook-up at her house for some time now.

Today it finally happened.

The menu was shy of ambitious (in terms of volume that is) but we fared well.

This dish was inspired by my trip to The Cheesecake Factory while visiting my aunt and cousin in Chicago, Illinois a few years ago. Theirs was a Thai lettuce wrap with chicken satays, but of course, I had to put my own twist to it. Lettuce wraps are pretty fun to eat, and puts control in the hands of the guest. Serve the fillings on a platter with whole lettuce leaves on the side, and let your friends and family wrap their own.

Jo-Anne

Jo-Anne

 Starter: Spicy Curried Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Peanut Sauce

Camera 360

Ingredients:

  • 1 head fresh iceberg lettuce (6-8 leaves)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 carrot, shredded or cut into thin strips
  • ¼ cup black olives, seeded, chopped
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Peanut sauce (recipe below)
  • Curried shrimp (recipe below)

Camera 360

Method:

  1. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and arrange on a larger platter.
  2. Arrange accompanying fillings alongside lettuce leaves.
  3. Let your guests create their own lettuce wraps by choosing a filling or fillings and placing it on a leaf along with the peanut sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
  4. Fold the leaf in half and enjoy!
toasted almonds

toasted almonds

Curried shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 24 oz. pack deveined, shelled, small shrimp
  • one medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 finely chopped, 2 smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • cumin powder (geera)
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 small scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. oil for stir-frying

Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine shrimp, onion, chopped garlic, bay leaf, thyme leaves, and pepper and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes for flavours to develop.
  2. Mix curry powder and cumin powder in 1/4 cup water.
  3. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil, and add the two cloves of smashed garlic and allow to burn and flavour the oil. Remove and discard garlic after about 3-4 mins.
  4. Add liquid curry mixture and stir constantly until it reduces to about 1/3 or to a viscous consistency.
  5. Add shrimp and cook uncovered on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try to get as much water to evaporate.
  6. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger extract
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame seed oil and ginger extract until well mixed. Gradually incorporate water until texture is smooth and creamy.
peanut butter sauce

peanut butter sauce

“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”  – Dorothy Day

This starter is pretty good on texture and colour, and surely does hit about every taste bud. Create your own lettuce wraps with your favourite ingredients. And, if you’re looking to drop a few pounds or just to knock off eating healthy from your 2013 resolutions list, then this is definitely a fun and simple way to do it!

Camera 360

Of course, this was only the starter. The rest of the meal included a scrumptious oven-BBQ chicken and potato medallions for the entrée, Jo’s very own creation, and out-of-the-box (literally, not figuratively) brownie. Lol. Sides included blanched string beans, fried ripe plantains, steamed rice, and corn-on-the-cob.

Jo's world-class bbq chicken

Jo’s world-class bbq chicken

corn-on-the-cob

corn-on-the-cob

my plate

my plate

One love,

S.C.

 

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today I celebrate the birthday of my mom, one of the dearest persons to me, and to whom I owe the early beginnings of my culinary journey.

mom

Mother dearest

It’s customary for me to take her to lunch at one of Kingston’s finest restaurants. But this time around I wanted something a little different. We had some catching up to do, so I figure we would drive out of town a little, have a few chats, while exploring the natural beauty of Jamaica. And that we did.

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

After about 20 minutes drive from my New Kingston apartment, a few stops and phone calls to confirm directions, and a few guesses of our own, we arrived at Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant. (No, it wasn’t my first time here, but I suck, I repeat, SUCK at directions. Pair that with a sh*tty memory and you have a killer combination.)

And so we arrived. I was excited to see mom’s reaction as it was her first time. She immediately commented on the scenic view of the mountains and sea, the serenity of the sea-breeze, and the welcomed difference of an open-air space as opposed to numerous indoor restaurants we’ve visited prior. I concur.

Views from the restaurant

Views from the restaurant

We went upstairs and got seated, well, took our seats. Two things flooded my memory about this restaurant: the food is good; but the service, well, erm, not so good. At all. Probably I am a little spoilt from the (few) occasions I’ve received good customer service in past restaurant visits. Devil’s advocate at play, it is Port Royal, a relatively small fishing town, where customer service is probably not front of mind.

mom

Nonetheless, mom and I took the opportunity to bounce around a few chats, photo opps, gossip of surrounding patrons, and some photo opps. (Yes I am aware). After a heavy 10 minutes, and after summoning one of the servers, we were finally approached. We placed our orders and returned to our chatter. Did I say two things? Make that that three. The waiter was kind enough to advise us that the food is done to order, and as such will take at least 30 minutes. And that it did. Well, about 40, but who’s counting? Luckily we had ordered some fish soup for appetizers, but those were finished in no time.

Steve

A hungry Stephen

I allowed mom first choice to see what my meal would be.  Truth be told, I was eyeing the steamed fish with steamed bammy, but mom beat me to it.

Steamed fish & steamed bammy

So I went for the curried shrimp, and festival. Not a fan of (white) rice. It didn’t matter really because the rest of the time was spent crisscrossing hands in each other’s plate.

Curried shrimp

The food was as good as I remembered. The only problem I had with the food is that my shrimp was about 1 ½ minutes overdone. Mom commented on the small portion of the bammy, but personally that’s to my liking. I was quick to preach about portion size and ratio of carbs to protein. That quickly took care of that. I didn’t mind my two measly festivals among the sea of shrimp, nor mom’s three sizeable fish beside her ½ bammy. Extra points for protein! #fistpump

protein power!

This post was not meant to be an official review so I won’t delve too deeply into that. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly priced, perfectly portioned. Crappy service and waiting time unfit for the hungry. And impatient.

I definitely would return; for both the journey and the food.

Of course, it didn’t end there. Mom and I took our photo-shoot across the road where we had a good shot of the sea in the background.

I love you mom!

mom photo collage

Steve.