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The Fish Market

Return of Fresh, Affordable Shrimp

February 20, 1986|ISAAC CRONIN and PAUL JOHNSON

In the last few years, shrimp prices have gone through the roof as demand grows and supplies slowly diminish. Shrimp is still one of the consumer's favorites despite the introduction of dozens of other fish and shellfish varieties during the last 10 years and despite the large quantities of mediocre frozen shrimp sold in markets.

During the last two or three years, ridgeback shrimp harvested from the waters off Santa Barbara have made an appearance in California markets, resulting in the return of fresh, affordable, high-quality shrimp. Ridgebacks are sold whole for $2 to $3 a pound in Asian fish markets and cleaned tails, more widely available, are priced at around $3.50 a pound, less than half the going price for most other shrimp.

Ridgebacks are small shrimp (40 to 50 per pound with the head on) with a firm outer shell, which is about halfway between shrimp and lobster in toughness. They are available throughout the year except for the summer months when the fishery is closed. Occasionally, ridgebacks will be sold whole with the green roe attached. The delicious eggs turn red as they are cooked.

Ridgebacks are Julia Child's favorite shrimp, and their sweet flavor makes them hard to resist. They can be sauteed, deep-fried, steamed or grilled. It is not necessary to completely peel these shrimp; in fact, leaving on the shell adds to their flavor. Removing one or two sections of the shell makes them easy to handle and still succulent.

The Chinese are fond of stir-frying shrimp with salt, which they feel brings out the flavor and succulence of this shellfish. The olive oil and herbs add a Western touch to this Eastern presentation of East-West Fried Shrimp. EAST-WEST FRIED SHRIMP

1 pound ridgeback or other shrimp tails, half peeled

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon minced ginger root

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon coarsely chopped garlic

Green onions

1 teaspoon chopped thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Marinate shrimp in wine and ginger 20 minutes. Strain marinade, reserving ginger. Heat oil to smoking hot in wok. Cook garlic 30 seconds and remove from wok with mesh scoop. Add shrimp and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add green onions, ginger, thyme and salt. Cover and cook 30 seconds more. Garnish with parsley and serve. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

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