Stealing From the Restaurant: Pork-Stuffed Shrimp at Home

Clean Plate Charlie had this really cool idea. Take one of your favorite dishes from one of your favorite restaurants and, applying a little time, a few tablespoons of culinary knowledge, and a willingness to eat the inevitable mistakes, attempt to re-create it at home.

Since Charlie absolutely adores Thai cuisine and -- sadly -- most Thai cuisine in these parts is hardly worthy of adoration, he reached back to a dish his taste buds still pine for from one of his favorite restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. There's nothing too difficult or complicated about it; the only (slightly) tricky part is the cooking -- just remember to be gentle and pay attention. Maybe Charlie's cool idea will be yours too.

For the pork:
1 lb. ground pork
6 T. cilantro, roots, stems and leaves chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
3 T. fish sauce (Tiparos is a good brand)
2 t. black peppercorns, whole
1 T. salt
1 T. sugar
8 jumbo shrimp (U-8 count)
Peanut oil for basting
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least half an hour 

Place the cilantro, garlic, and peppercorns in a mortar and mash to a thick paste with pestle or very finely chop cilantro, coarsely grind one scant tablespoon of black pepper and grate garlic cloves on microplaner. Add mixture to pork with fish sauce, salt and sugar and work it in with your hands. Refrigerate. 

Remove the feet from the shrimp, then--leaving shells on--devein and butterfly, making sure not to cut all the way through. Place shrimp in bowl full of water with one tablespoon of salt and toss until shrimp are no longer sticky and all remnants of the vein have been washed away. Rinse off, then thread each shrimp lengthwise on a skewer, keeping them as straight as possible. 

Take approximately one heaping tablespoon of pork mixture and roll it into a rough cylinder, then pack it into the butterflied cavity of  each shrimp. Place shrimp on a tray and refrigerate for at least one hour to firm up the stuffing, then start making the sauce. 

For the sauce:
3 t. Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
½ t. garlic, grated on microplaner
2-1/2 T. rice wine vinegar
6 T. water
2 T. sugar
2 t. fish sauce
1 t. cornstarch 

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and stir. Bring to boil, then simmer over low heat for five minutes until blended and thick. Remove from heat, pour into small bowl and reserve. 

To cook shrimp:
Preheat grate of gas or charcoal grill, then reduce heat/let coals burn down to medium-hot. Gently baste stuffed shrimp with peanut oil, then place on grill pork side down. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on heat of grill, distance from heat source, and size of shrimp. Working carefully with tongs, turn shrimp on side and grill for about one minute, then turn on other side and grill one minute more. Shrimp should no longer be translucent and pork should be firm to the touch and lightly browned. Remove from grill and serve with sauce. Serves 2.

P.S. If you've read this far, you have no doubt already realized that one pound of pork is a lot more than you can use in this recipe. What do you do with the rest? Well, Charlie's mother didn't raise him to be no fool. You'll just have to check back next week to find out.

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