Sweet & Spicy Shrimp

by Joseph Erdos
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sweetsourshrimp.jpgSpicy and tropical flavors always transport my imagination to lush jungles or azure beaches belonging to more temperate climates. Mexican food in particular has that effect on me. At home whenever I want to add a south-of-the-border touch to recipes I reach for dried chiles. Ancho chile powder, made of ground dried poblano peppers, lends a smoky and earthy flavor to recipes (think of the many famous mole sauces). Combine it with lime juice and oil and you have the perfect Mex-like marinade for meat or fish. In this case it's shrimp, briefly marinated and then grilled. Paired with a fresh salsa, it's a summery dish that serves well as a quick appetizer when friends stop by.

The grilled shrimp is spicy and savory whereas the mango salsa is sweet and tangy. It may sound a bit unusual to have fruit in a salsa, but it's not uncommon in Mexico and the Caribbean. Fruits indigenous to these areas are utilized in many different ways in recipe preparations. Pineapple, papaya, or guava are also commonly used in salsa frescas. Once combined with savory elements and herbs, such as onions and cilantro, and lime juice to add acidity, the salsa becomes a wonderful condiment, especially for seafood. Use it as a topping for any seared or grilled fish. This dish truly brings to mind Mexico and its unique culinary heritage. Its flavors will have you there in no time.

Grilled Chile-Lime Marinated Shrimp with Mango Salsa

for the shrimp:
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the mango salsa:
1 large firm mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for grilling and serving:
canola oil, for grilling
lime wedges, for serving

Thread 2 to 3 shrimp per skewer and place in a baking dish. Add lime juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with chile powder, salt, and pepper. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, make the salsa. Combine mango, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño in a bowl. Dress with lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

Preheat a grill or grill pan at medium-high to high heat. Once grill is hot, moisten a paper towel with canola oil and wipe down grates.

Remove shrimp skewers from marinade and place on grill. Discard marinade. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve immediately with mango salsa and wedges of lime. Yield: 4 appetizer servings.


Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, but above all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for food on his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.  


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