I have a confession to make. I stole this recipe. Years ago, when I worked for a chef in Detroit. It was a super-fancy restaurant and I was a server there. The chef was Japanese (and a genius!) and we often had pharmaceutical companies rent out the entire space to entertain local doctors, hoping to sell them whatever brand of medicine they were touting.
The evenings always began with passed hors d’oeuvres. Sometimes the doctors would crowd the top of the stairway when they saw us coming up from the kitchen with platters of snacks. To outsmart them, every once in a while, we would take the elevator up to the main floor. In the 20-or-so-second ride time, I would jam as many of these little buggers into my mouth as possible. Yep, they’re that good.
Want the recipe for bad hair day shrimp? Keep reading!
Naturally, when it was time to open my own restaurant, I had to have them on the menu. Since I hadn’t worked in the kitchen to learn the recipe, I needed to figure it out on my own. I decided I would start by googling it and found the original in an old newspaper article.
It’s really the sauce that makes this dish stand out. And that’s what I wanted on my menu. As always, I upped the ante. A little more spice, a little more sweet, a few more herbs and it was transformed from someone else’s dish, into my own.
We don’t have it regularly anymore. However, when I do make it now, my family (well, Noah!) likes it so much that we have it as a main course, usually during Lent since we know seafood isn’t my favorite. I serve it with coconut rice and a bright green salad. But it is equally delicious served as an appetizer any day of the year, the way I first had it.
In any case, it’s worth finding the Kataifi (shredded filo dough) and getting the (somewhat) long list of sauce ingredients together. It’ll keep in the fridge for weeks after you make it. And I found out yesterday that it makes a delicious condiment for rotisserie chicken sandwiches!
You’re gonna want to try this!
So, get in the kitchen, and get cooking! Let me know how it goes!
Bad Hair Day ShrimpCourse: Main, AppetizersDifficulty: Medium
These shrimp are shatteringly crisp, and the sauce takes them to over-the-top yumazing!
- Shrimp Sauce
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c onion, small dice
1-1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely diced fresh ginger
1 small jalapeño , with seeds, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp + 1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped chives or scallions
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- Bad Hair Day Shrimp
1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp, with or without the tails
8 oz Kataifi (shredded filo dough), thawed
salt and pepper
- For Sauce:
- In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeño and red pepper. Sauté this mixture, stirring frequently, until the garlic and onion just start to brown on edges, about 10 minutes.
- Add the salt, red pepper flake and diced tomatoes (with juice). Bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to simmer until slightly reduced and all vegetables are soft. About 10 minutes.
- Add the honey, lemon juice, chives (or scallions), cilantro, basil and mint. Allow to cook for 5-10 more minutes to reduce the juices and concentrate the flavor.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- For Shrimp:
- Crack egg into small bowl. Add 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. Mix well with fork and set aside.
- Season shrimp liberally with salt and pepper.
- Unroll the Kataifi dough and separate a small bundle of strands about an inch wide. Using scissors or your fingers, cut Kataifi strands about 8 inches long. For each shrimp, spread a Kataifi bundle on your work surface, dip shrimp in egg mixture and wrap dough around shrimp, leaving the tail uncovered if shell is still on. Wrap tightly enough so kataifi stays in place during cooking. Set aside and continue with remainder of shrimp and kataifi. See Notes for additional info and below for detailed pictures.
- In 3 to 4 quart saucepan, fill with about 2 inches of oil. Heat to 350˚F and cook shrimp in batches, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve hot with shrimp sauce.
- If you don’t want to spend time dicing each item for the sauce into teeny-tiny pieces, just place onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeño and red pepper in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped then continue with recipe as written.
- The sauce may taste salty to you as you are cooking it. A very important factor to consider in cooking is this: cold temperatures dull flavors. Something that tastes good warm, will most likely taste bland once chilled. That is why you need to season cooked/warm sauces that will be served chilled more heavily than you might expect.
- This sauce is delicious with the Bad Hair Day Shrimp, but it is also delicious on chicken sandwiches, with pork, and with any other kind of seafood. It will keep for weeks in a cold spot in your fridge.
- Don’t skimp on the herbs. They make all the difference in this sauce. And in cooking in general!
- The kataifi is a bit temperamental. Which is to say it’s a royal pain in the behind. But it’s worth it to taste these shrimp! You just have to make sure you work very quickly and keep the kataifi you aren’t using covered with a damp kitchen towel so it doesn’t dry out. If you choose to save the other half of the package – you’ll only need about half to wrap a pound of shrimp – get some paper towel damp, wrap it around the remainder of the kataifi, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then put it in a zip top baggie, squeezing all the air out before putting in the freezer. Alternatively, you can wrap two pounds of shrimp. Just place what you won’t use immediately on a parchment lined sheet pan and freeze them individually before placing in a container for longer-term storage (in the freezer).