Grilled Shrimp with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce
Grilled Shrimp with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce

The cuisine of Southeast Asia is especially vibrant, defined by a palate that includes sweet, salty, hot, and sour flavors. Herbs such as mint, cilantro and a special variety of basil are used frequently, and seafood from nearby waters, especially the omnipresent shrimp, plays a prominent role. Perfect for the hot climates where they originated, these foods are uncomplicated to prepare, and inspired the Grilled Shrimp recipe with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce that follows.

The Southeast Asian dipping sauce that accompanies this grilled shrimp recipe requires no cooking. You need only to mix together fresh limejuice and zest, fish sauce and sugar, and then add minced lemongrass, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, cilantro and mint.

Some essential flavoring agents for this imaginative cuisine are present here -- sour from the lime and the lemongrass, salty from the fish sauce, sweet from the sugar, and hot from the pepper. A bowl of this assertive sauce pairs beautifully with skewers of grilled shrimp to make an irresistible summer appetizer.

Fish sauce and lemongrass are available in Asian food stores and in many supermarkets, so you won't have to undertake a scavenger hunt to find them. Count on about 15 minutes to assemble the sauce and less than 5 minutes to cook the shrimp -- not a lot of time for such a tempting dish to enjoy with friends.

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Grilled Shrimp with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 4 minutes

    Yield: Serves 4 (Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer)

Grilled Shrimp with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce Ingredients

    1/2 cup fresh limejuice (8 or more limes)

    1 1/4 teaspoons lime zest

    1/4 cup fish sauce (see note)

    2 tablespoons light brown sugar

    2 tablespoons minced lemon grass (see note)

    1 medium garlic clove finely chopped

    2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

    1 teaspoon chopped mint plus 2 to 3 sprigs for garnish

    3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    Canola oil for brushing on shrimp, plus extra for grill

    1 1/4 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 count), shelled and deveined

    Wooden skewers (soaked in water 30 minutes before using)

Grilled Shrimp with Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce Recipe Instructions

    In a nonreactive bowl, whisk together limejuice and zest, fish sauce, and sugar until sugar has dissolved.

    Add lemon grass, garlic, cilantro, mint and red pepper flakes, and stir well. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

    Oil a grill rack and arrange it 4 to 5 inches from heat source.

    Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature).

    Skewer 1 shrimp on each skewer, then brush on both sides with oil.

    When grill is ready, grill shrimp until they turn pink and are curled, about 2 minutes per side.

    Do not overcook, or shrimp will become tough.

    Arrange a bowl of sauce on a serving plate, surround with skewered shrimp, and garnish with mint sprigs.

Notes: Fish sauce is available in Asian markets and in many supermarkets.

Lemongrass is available in Asian markets and in the produce section of some groceries. It has long slightly woody, grayish-green stalks about the size of green onions To use, discard any discolored outer stalks and cut off bases. Chop just the white portion of the stalks. Store in a plastic bag for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of "Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouth-Watering, Easy-to-Make Recipes"

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Grilled Shrimp Recipe with a Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce

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