Like most people, I’ve been overwhelmed by the perfect storm of holidays we’ve had this weekend. Being stared down by Cupid, I could barely make out the Metal Tiger and Abe Lincoln standing behind him. Throw my birthday into the mix and I barely have enough time to get my guilt in order before Ash Wednesday. Nevertheless, I wanted to commemorate the Chinese New Year in some small way. When I first came to New York for school, Chinese-Cuban restaurants were my link to authentic Cuban food. Chinese staff speaking hyper-speed Caribbean Spanish serving roast pork with bean curd or fried rice with maduros over Cuban map placemats. I realized this winter that the reverse was also true. When I was considering buying some heavy tropical fruit to bring back with me from Miami, I realized I’d be better off looking for the same items closer to home in Chinatown.
Looking for a recipe that was both Cuban and Chinese, I decided to make camarones jengibre or ginger shrimp. The word for shrimp in Cantonese sounds like someone laughing so symbolizes happiness in the New Year while the use of ginger in Cuban cuisine can be traced to the influx of Chinese workers to the island beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. The recipe itself was Celia Cruz’s contribution to the Babalu! cookbook, so I don’t know how it could be more Cuban. With only tiger shrimp available, I took it as a good omen for the year ahead.
Camarones Jengibre/Ginger Shrimp
Adapted from a recipe contributed by Celia Cruz to Babalu! Favorite Recipes from the World’s Top Latin Chefs and Celebrities by Michael Valdes and Art Torres.
12 extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons scallions, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large slices of pineapple
In a large glass bowl, combine the shrimp, two tablespoons of lime juice, salt and pepper. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Drain the shrimp and reserve the marinade.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute until they begin to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Blend in reserved marinade and saute until fully cooked, about 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and scallions. Set aside to cool
Combine remaining two tablespoons of lime juice, one tablespoon of brown sugar, ginger, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over pineapple slices and marinate at room temperature for one hour. Remove pineapple slices, reserving marinade, and grill over high heat until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side.
Arrange on individual plates and top with a few shrimp. Spoon a teaspoon of the reserved ginger marinade over the shrimp and serve. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of brown sugar over shrimp to taste (optional).
Makes 4 servings.