Sometimes the simplest dishes taste the best. Steamed live shrimp with several dipping sauces served with piping hot steamed rice is one such dish. As some people head out to the beaches on summer outings or home to the provinces for a holiday, I have tried to think of some dishes that can be prepared with reef fresh seafood, with minimal fuss and maximum flavor impact. Instead of carting instant noodles and adobo with rice made the day before to the beach, bring no cooked food and instead hit the local markets early to see what the boats have brought in.
Last weekend, at a Batangas market, one of the vendors had the freshest looking live shrimp I have seen in a while. They were so lively she had trouble keeping them in her palanggana (flat laundry pail) and they kept jumping out. About 1 Â½ inches long, they were just the right size for steaming. I bought a kilo for PHP350 and took them home in a cooler. Rinse them in cool water, snip off their â€œhornsâ€ (sharp thing protruding from their heads) and their â€œwhiskersâ€. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook; mine stayed there for three hours and over 60% of the shrimp were still very much alive when I finally threw them into the steamer. To cook, boil water in a steamer and when super hot, throw the shrimp into the steamer tray and cook for just minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Do not overcook as they will get tough. Slight undercooking is better than overcooked. Place cooked shrimp in a bowl and serve with rice. If you do not have a steamer, you can throw these into boiling water with salt added and cook until just pink as well.
I like to serve these shrimp with at least 3 sauces. First, a Kikkoman or similar light soy sauce with sesame seed oil. Second, a Thai or local patis (fish sauce) with lime or kalamansi and chopped wansoy (coriander). And third, a local artisanal cane vinegar with chopped chillis. This should serve 6-8 if there are other dishes served with the shrimp. The shrimp were so fresh they were actually sweet! Peeling and eating with your hands is a must!