With the current holidays, I was looking for some excuses to cook a few special meals. I've been looking for something a little different, not just another variant of fried rice (though that has served me quite well lately, and I have more leftover jasmine rice waiting for its shot at the fried rice big time). Thursday night I decided to go to southeast Asia via Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. The recipe in question was "Shrimp Cooked in Lime Juice."
This is a quick stir-fry. After stir-frying a teaspoon of chopped garlic and red pepper flakes (to taste) in the cooking oil, you add a mixture of half a cup fresh lime juice, a quarter of a cup sugar and a tablespoon of fish sauce. This should be blended beforehand and added to the pan as a unit. Once the sauce reduces by at least half and has become syrupy, you add the peeled shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink, adjust the seasoning, and serve with cilantro for a garnish.
I quickly ran into trouble when my fresh limes turned out not to be terribly juicy. I managed to get a quarter of a cup of juice out of four limes (I guess they just weren't ripe enough) and added water to get the desired half a cup of liquid. As a result, the sauce was not as sour as it should have been; it had a light, sweet citrusy flavor instead (almost like candy).The red pepper flakes quickly scorched in the cooking oil and added none of their heat to the final meal; perhaps real fresh or dried chilis would be better than powder in this sort of recipe.
That said, the shrimp were tasty and there was enough sauce to flavor the jasmine rice, but not so much that it turned soupy. If I try this again, I'll make sure I have the requisite amount of lime juice on hand, and I might play with the seasonings to make the flavor more complex. I think a bit of tamarind would be an excellent addition, for example.