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Coriander, cilantro, cumin, garlic, ginger, green chilies, oyster sauce, sesame oil  and other Asian ingredients when combined with shrimp provide a huge range of flavors ranging from salty to sweet to sour to spicy and to all of them together.

 Asian cooking methods run the gamut ranging from deep frying to poaching shrimp in oil to steaming them. Although the ingredients and cooking techniques used in preparing shrimp with Asian flavors may be different from traditional American methods, the crucial cooking tip remains – shrimp will be cooked before you know it! Overcooking shrimp will result in a dry, rubbery taste. As the Frugal Gourmet once said, “Most sea foods…should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy." 

It is best to buy them frozen, instead of thawed, and defrost them under cold running water. In most Asian countries, shrimp is cooked and eaten whole – head, tail and all. Unless the shrimp is being served in a hot sauce or curry, you can keep the shell on for superior cooking. De-veining, removing the vein of the shrimp, seems to be an issue that divides seafood lovers – “de-vein at will” seems to be the thought for the day.

(This is part of a piece I wrote for the Washington Post several years ago)

Diana’s Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp

(Recipe adapted from “The Vietnamese Cookbook” by Diana My Tran (Capital Books, 2003)

Serves 4-6

 “As I grew up, I was trained to eat well, and often had opportunities to taste many good restaurants in Saigon.  I never thought to become a good cook because I didn’t have to cook in Vietnam.  Years later when I moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I had to teach myself how to cook by trying to recall the authentic taste from my childhood. It was a challenge to substitute what I could find in local supermarket to cook traditional Vietnamese foods to satisfy my parents-in-law and my husband,” shares 50 year old Diana My Tran. The owner of a bridal shop in Georgetown, she is also a cookbook author. She moved to Virginia in the l976.


Her favorite recipe is “Caramel Shrimp” served traditionally with rice and a bowl of soup. “It reflects my heritage,” she says, “because we always have rice, a salty dish, and a bowl of soup as a traditional Vietnamese meal. And it is such a simple recipe that you can’t go wrong.” 

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1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de veined 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1/2 teaspoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ – ½ cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small onion, chopped
1 fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt to taste
Sprigs cilantro (optional garnish)


  1. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with the oyster sauce, salt, cayenne pepper and flour. Set aside to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet or wok over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown.
  3. Transfer the shrimp to the pan, discarding any remaining marinade. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn pink.
  4. Add the water and sugar and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chili pepper, if desired, and black pepper to taste. Squeeze the lime juice over the top of the shrimp and transfer the mixture to a platter.
  6. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.



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  1. Wow what a fantastic set of spice ingredients…Looks wonderful!

  2. What a great recipe! Thanks for posting this.

  3. These babies make me HUNGRY! Yum.

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