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Tropical Tamarind Shrimp with Avocado Cucumber Salad

July 26, 2009


Yesterday was one of those days that slipped away, and when evening rolled around I had no idea for dinner. In these situations, I usually default to shrimp and rice, but my standbys felt heavy and hot.

I needed something quick and cooling, so I flipped through my favorite eye-candy cookbook, a collection of Four Seasons recipes from equatorial Asia. The photos are as luxurious as the food, set in poolside elegance in tropical dusk.

I lacked a beachfront resort, but I did have tamarind paste (small consolation), and decided to build my dinner around that distinctly tropical flavor. Tamarind is a tart seedpod that seems to pop up whenever it’s hot – soda in Central America, chutney in India, curries in Asia. I found it in paste form at a Middle Eastern market, but it’s also sold as dark, solid blocks, which are dissolved in hot water.

Once you have tamarind and fish sauce, two unusual but very useful staples, the other ingredients are easy to come by, and even easier to prepare. The creation below was conceived, cooked, documented and devoured in under an hour.

The beautiful layers of flavor – tart citrus shrimp, cool cucumber and avocado, and the crunch of crispy shallots and peanuts – make a refreshing end to a sticky summer night.


Tropical Tamarind Shrimp with Avocado Cucumber Salad
Inspired by Tropical Asian Cooking, and based loosely off two different recipes from

3 T. peanut oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
2-3 Thai chilies, with seeds, minced
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

2 heaping teaspoons tamarind concentrate
3 T. sugar
2 T. soy
2 T. Asian fish sauce (nam pla)
2 T. lime juice

2 avocados, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large cucumber, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 half sweet onion, minced
3 T. lime juice
zest of one lime
1 t. sugar
1 t. Asian fish sauce (nam pla)
3 T. fresh coriander, chopped
1/3 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
steamed jasmine rice

Fry shallot and make tamarind sauce:
Heat oil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then fry shallot, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain (shallots will crisp as they cool). Reserve oil.

Combine all sauce ingredients – tamarind, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and lime juice – and stir until well mixed. (If you can’t find tamarind concentrate, you can soak 4 T. tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup boiling water until dissolved, and then strain out the solids).

Make salad and cook shrimp:
Combine all salad ingredients, minus the peanuts, in a bowl. Cover and set aside.

Transfer reserved oil to a heavy skillet and sauté ginger, garlic, chilies, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds (careful not to burn). Add shrimp and sauté until barely pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tamarind mixture and simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

Spoon shrimp and salad over rice, then sprinkle with peanuts and fried shallot.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2009 2:26 pm

    It looks delicious Liz, although hmm, yes, well, maybe it is indeed a small consolation to have tamarind paste instead of a tropical… It looks lovely!

  2. July 26, 2009 9:32 pm

    Do you have a cup to match every dish you make!? So beautiful, I wish this was my supper!

  3. Liz permalink
    July 26, 2009 10:25 pm

    Megan – Ha, yes, at the Brooklyn flea market a couple weeks ago, there was a vendor selling hundreds, maybe thousands, of brightly colored single dishes, all for $1 apiece. I bought a tiny cup in every color.

  4. July 27, 2009 10:23 am

    That looks really good! The shrimp, avocado and tamarind combo is a nice one!

  5. Susan permalink
    July 27, 2009 11:45 am

    This recipes looks like a serious winner. Must buy some tamarind paste.

  6. July 27, 2009 2:21 pm

    Avocado and cucumber are always a good bet to take on when it comes to shrimp, I think! The dish looks absolutely refreshing!

  7. July 27, 2009 2:55 pm

    Yum…spicy/tangy shrimp pair with cucumber is a favorite! Looks delicious.

  8. July 28, 2009 2:08 am

    Looks delicious! Thanks for stopping by our site. You’ve got lots of great posts/pictures!

  9. debby permalink
    June 21, 2011 6:45 pm

    can you use tamarind paste instead of tamarind concentrate

  10. debby permalink
    June 22, 2011 12:47 pm

    I live in small town MN …. actually found tamarind concentrate….but had to improvise on the shallotts…turned out absolutely delicious

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