Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Great Shrimp Tragedy

Our story starts a few months ago, in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District (known as the “I.D.” in these parts). My office is mere steps away from this mecca of hanging roasted ducks, big bowls of noodle-filled pho, salmon teriyaki bento boxes, and, most important to this story—slippery, salty dim sum.

It was at one such establishment, a crowded, rushed dim sum joint, that I first tried honey walnut prawns. Hidden between bamboo steamers of dumplings and plates of meat-filled buns, we discovered a dish of crispy fried prawns and candied walnuts, coated with a sticky honey-mayonnaise sauce and sprinkled with nutty sesame seeds. In addition to the amazing, sigh-provoking crispy-top shrimp buns that were devoured that day, honey walnut prawns became an instant obsession.

The fixation finally got the best of me, and I did what I do best—I tried to recreate the delicious recipe at home. Instead of frying, I boiled the shrimp (swimsuit season is fast approaching, ya know). I made a sweet but tangy mayo-honey sauce, and candied a tray of walnuts, which I tossed with the shrimp. Then, in an act of ultimate perfection, I showered sesame seeds and sliced green onions over the top. It was beautiful, it was fabulous, it looked even better than the sticky-shrimp-of-heaven from the ID.

Before digging in and savoring my masterpiece, I had to take some glamour shots. That’s where the pictures came from. All was going well—pictures were taken, the table was set, and I was seconds from serving the dish I had been dreaming of for months—honey walnut prawns. Then, as I carried the serving bowl from kitchen to dining room, everything went wrong. In one tragic moment, the serving bowl slipped from my eager hands, and, along with all that tangy, sweet, sticky, saucy coated shrimp, it went crashing to the floor. The bowl shattered in a million pieces, coating my beautiful, beautiful shrimp in shiny black speckles of glass. The entire kitchen—cupboard doors, floor, fridge, and oven—was covered with shrimp, sauce, and glass. Lots of glass.

It was…over. All my hard work, my anticipation, my black bowl—gone. Luckily, I had also made pork dumplings. This, my friends, is where our tragedy becomes a success.

To be continued...
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