Grilled Shrimp with Tamarind Sauce


A few months back I bought some cilantro paste.  I found it in a Latin market with the chile pastes.  They have a wide variety of chile pastes in various colors from red to orange to yellow.  They also vary in heat intensity.  So, I bought the cilantro paste because I like to try new things.  I didn’t particularly like it.  It did not remind me at all of cilantro, but was more, I guess, earthy.  I’ve been using it sparingly as a background flavor.  With this recipe came my a-ha moment.  I’m willing to bet the cilantro paste is made from the roots and the stems of the plant rather than from the leaves.  Well that explains that.  This recipe is supposed to be from Thailand, but I found not only the cilantro paste in the Latin market, but the tamarind pulp as well.  It was frozen.


Grilled Shrimp with Tamarind Sauce


  • 1 1/2 pound jumbo shrimp
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt dissolved in 11/2 cups water

For tamarind sauce:

  • 1/3 cup tamarind pulp
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro paste or chopped cleaned fresh cilantro roots and/or stems, pounded to a paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar or cane sugar or light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Garnish: 2 fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded, halved lengthwise, and finely julienned crosswise; and fresh cilantro sprigs


Prepare grill for cooking.  Soak shrimp (still in shells) in salt water 5 minutes, then rinse well in a colander.

Thaw the tamarind pulp and set aside.

Heat oil in a small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook cilantro paste and garlic, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in hot sauce, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Simmer until thickened to consistency of light syrup, about 3 minutes total.

Rinse and drain shrimp.  Remove shells, leaving tails intact, if desired.  Grill shrimp on their sides on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. (Alternatively, grill shrimp in a grill pan over moderate heat.)  Serve with tamarind sauce to dip or pour over the shrimp.

Serves 4 as a main dish; 8 as an appetizer.


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