Spicy Seafood

Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup

1 pound uncooked shrimp
4 cups water
Salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons Tom Yum sauce*
1 cake fresh tofu, cubed
6 medium mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 green onions
4-ounce pack bean-thread vermicelli

Shell whole shrimp, leaving tails on. Save shells and heads to make stock: Boil in 4 cups water for 15 minutes, strain, and add salt to taste. Bring shrimp stock, garlic, fish sauce, and Tom Yum paste to a boil. Add tofu and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add raw shrimp, mushrooms, coconut milk, and green onions, continuing to simmer for about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp - but don't overcook shrimp. Add vermicelli during the last 2 minutes. Serve immediately.*(If Tom Yum sauce is unavailable, make your own: Combine red chili paste to taste, 2 teaspoons chopped lemon grass, 2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar).

Shrimp & Avocado Rolls

1 pound cooked shrimp meat, chilled and sliced lengthwise
2 small avocadoes or 1 large, sliced into thin sections
2 green onions, tops only, sliced into thin strips
1/4 small cucumber, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
4 sushi Nori (seaweed wrappers)
Wasabi paste
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger
Sushi rice (see below)

To make sushi rice: Add 1 cup short-grain white rice, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 3/4 cups water to pot. Bring to a boil, stir, close lid and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and chill in refrigerator (or on deck, allowing breeze to cool rice, folding often).

To make rolls: On a dry cutting board, lay down one sushi Nori wrapper. By hand, spread rice thinly over the bottom 3/4 of the wrapper. Top with a quarter of the shrimp, avocado, green onion, and cucumber. Smear a small amount of wasabi in a line across rice. Roll wrapper away from you, keeping good pressure to get a tight roll. Wet fingers and lightly moisten top edge of roll; this will help to "seal" it.

To serve: Using a very sharp knife, slice into 1/2-inch segments. (Wetting the knife before making each cut will help to keep sticky rice from "pulling" out.) Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, and a small dish of soy sauce on the side. Serves two as a main course, or 4-6 as an appetizer.

Shrimp On The Barbie

Being in Australia, I couldn't resist tossing some shrimp on the grill. There's not a lot to it; getting it right is more about timing: Any overcooked shrimp is a wasted shrimp. And in Oz, it's "prawns" on the barbie. A shrimp is a small person!

2 pounds whole, large uncooked shrimp (prawns)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Combine soy, red pepper, and garlic, and marinate prawns in the refrigerator for several hours. Heat grill to highest setting; allow time for it to fully heat. Toss prawns on the grill and watch carefully: As soon as they become pink on the bottom side (approximately 1 1/2 -2 minutes, depending on size and heat), flip and cook the other side for another minute or two. If heat is high enough, shells will slightly blacken, but the meat inside should be moist and slightly undercooked-prawns will continue to cook in their shells after being removed from heat, so get them off early-you can always put them back on for 30 seconds if they're underdone. Peel and eat, with an ice-cold Fosters beer on the side. Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer.