Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shrimp in coconut cream

I shall but be a shrimp of an author.
                         ~Thomas Gray

Shrimp in coconut cream
Nothing reminds me more of my lola than shrimp. It was she who taught me the nuances of cooking it, while my mother would gladly spend for ingredients if I so much as whispered an interest in kitchen activity. It was lola who informed me that shrimp must be cooked gently and exposed to heat only long enough for it to turn to its cooked color through and through. Any more exposure and the meat begins to toughen and lose its sweetness.

It was also lola, who taught me how to squeeze out the kakang gata and the pangalawang piga (second squeeze) or coconut milk. The niyog must be placed in a laundry basin or large pan and scant water poured over it. The water must be slightly warm, and little more than the volume of the grated young coconut. The mixture must be allowed to stand for a few minutes. Then the same is mixed gently by hand in similar fashion as when one washes rice, then squeezed over a sieve with a bowl to catch the cream underneath. Repeat but separate the second liquid.

Coconut cream or " kakang gata" and coconut milk ("gata") are found in many Tagalog dishes and some Bicolano ones. Filled with the good kind of saturated fats, it boosts the immune system, not to mention gives dishes a rich and creamy taste one cannot get from animal-milk based cream.

Shrimp on the other hand, once plentiful in Philippine waters and a poor-man's food, is now served primarily in special occasions and in sparing portions, a sad footnote to man's interference in the ocean's ecology.

Shrimp in coconut cream
Surprisingly, however in the past week, shrimp prices were down from the usual P400 per kilo to an all time low of P250/kilo. Suddenly awash in shrimp, I am reminded of the time when lola, then alive would supervise my cooking while sitting in the kitchen. When she got older, she lived next door and would send the maids back and forth with instructions.

Interesting thing about Philippine recipes, especially those passed down generation to generation, their measurements are an informal thing, handsful, pinches, non-measuring spoons and cups are the norm, and feeling and taste are as important as the amount of ingredients specified.

Hipon sa Gata

1k fresh medium sized shrimp
scant oil
three inches ginger, peeled and sliced into strips'
rock salt
gata and kakang gata from one coconut (or two, depending on preference)
sili pepper leaves
pepper corns
chili powder (optional)

Shrimp must be drained well, after cleaning and salted. Chop off the sharp parts and excessive antennae. In a large wok, lightly oiled and heated, toss in the ginger, then when it is heated, put in the shrimp and sautee until each shrimp is half turned in color. Add. gata (second squeeze) and simmer, mixing lightly to make sure the shirmp is evenly cooked. Before the shrimp is cooked through, add pepper leaves and pepper corns. Then pour in the kakang gata. Exactly when shrimp is all orange and cooked through, turn off heat. Add chili powder if desired.

Note: My grandmother is Paula Espiritu Lavina. She was a de la Paz on her mother's side and came from a wealthy family that owned the first car in Marikina where her family resided.


Anonymous said...

Wow!! Delish!

Anonymous said...

And you're beautiful!!

DeliSyosa said...

Thank you!

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The Drunken Pig said...

Those shrimps + coconut cream is a match made in heaven. Thanks for sharing this, my wife will love this recipe :)

Barako Newsline said...

Coconut milk is always a delightful addition to dishes like this one. It is also good to try it with curry. Try that on the shrimp!