Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
Fresh off the plane in Maui and starving, we stopped at a roach coach on the side of the road called Geste Shrimp. Turned out to be the best meal I had my entire trip even beating out the famed Mama's Fish House. Those deep fried shrimp with their shells intact added a taste of the sea to the spicy pineapple sauce that surprised me. I couldn't stop eating the shrimp, shells and the rice that soaked up the sauce. I got back to California and couldn't stop thinking about them so I reverse engineered them to the excitement of my entire family.
The first step is getting some quality U-15 shrimp. I've tried the shrimp at every market in my city and Costco has the best and most consistent quality. These shrimp still have the tail, shell and legs on allowing for versatility in cooking but are cleaned so all you have to do is rinse them. When shrimp is the star of a dish, you really need to get the best quality ingredient you can find.
Normally I would make the sauce before frying the shrimp but since we're on the subject, heat some Vegetable Shortening on high in a thick pan like a Cast Iron Pan. Place the shrimp in a bag, salt them and add a couple tablespoons of corn starch (for a little crispiness) and shake the bag till the shrimp are covered. When the oil starts to smoke, fry the shrimp for about a minute or two on each side or until they turn pink. Make sure not to crowd the shrimp and they will crisp up faster. If you have a deep fat fryer, cook the shrimp for two to three minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the shrimp is the star then the sauce is the supporting cast. The sweet comes from the heavy syrup in the canned pineapple while the spice comes from red chili peppers and some ground cayenne. While I would prefer to use fresh pineapple, the can offers the heavy syrup infused with spectacular pineapple flavor. Otherwise, I like to use fresh ingredients like ginger, chilis and green onions.
Extracting the juice from fresh ginger root is a lot easier than you might think. You don't have to grate it on the finest setting. Just use the medium or shredding size of a four sided grater. Once the ginger is grated, simply squeeze the ginger in your hand and the juice will come pouring out.
While you are chopping the vegetables, heat a large sauce pan on medium. Add two tablespoons of unsalted butter along with the diced red chilis and green onions. Let them soften for a little while and then add the chopped garlic along with the salt. Cook for another minute or until the garlic is fragrant. I often set the pan to medium low while I am chopping the veggies to give me more time but you can prepare the vegetables ahead of time if you like.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the pineapple chunks and simmer for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Reducing the sauce will also thicken it along with the corn starch. The sauce doesn't need to be syrupy, just a little thicker than when it started. When the sauce is done, add the pineapple chunks.
Serve the shrimp on top of rice to soak up the extra sauce. If you have time, make Garlic Rice for an extra dimension. Garnish with some of the fresh green onions.