|Bang Bang Shrimp|
I came across the recipe for Bang Bang Shrimp when I was lazing on the sofa surfing the internet. My stomach was so full of dumplings that even the elastic band on my sweat pants felt like a tourniquet. Mr. B was slumped in the chair, his feet propped on the ottoman and a satiated smile upon his face. "What next?" he asked.
I wanted to have a go at Chinese pork buns or a fiery curry, but when I saw the picture of the Bang Bang Shrimp and read through the details, I was intrigued. "What about this?" I asked, as I lifted my laptop from my chest so he could see the picture. There was a long pause and finally, Mr. B said, "But it doesn't look Asian at all. In fact, it looks like something Al Copeland used to serve in his restaurant."
It was exactly what I was thinking. It had a definite New Orleans flair, but with a few shakes of fish sauce and some lime zest and a squeeze of Sriracha, I figured I could turn out a banging good dish.
Before I launch into the details of this spicy recipe, I suppose I should give you a short course on Al Copeland. To sum it up, Al Copeland was the guy behind the famous Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits franchise that began in New Orleans. As an aside, let me also say that back in the day, Popeye's was one amazing fast food restaurant and in college, I enjoyed my fair share of both the chicken and biscuits and while I'm not a critic, I must say that once those franchises went national, well, things got a little bland and the portions were a lot smaller, too. Man, those biscuits used to be so big that they would almost cover the whole of my outstretched hand.
Anyhow, Copeland was a flamboyant character, pretty much the usual for someone with a rags to riches tale. A high school dropout with a job at the iconic Schwegmann's grocery store, he got his start by buying a donut franchise from his brother and as everyone knows, if you've got hot oil from frying donuts for breakfast, you may as well go ahead and fry some chicken up for lunch.
Popeye's was just the beginning and soon enough, Copeland had a few 'high' end restaurants--places you could get a drink with your fried food. Of course, all the rage back then was popcorn shrimp and they were served with this spicy mayo based sauce. My mom replicated that sauce for our own fried shrimp dinners, so I based my interpretation of Bang Bang Shrimp on both my memories of Copeland's restaurant and my mom's Sunday shrimp dinners.
Bang Bang Shrimp
2 lbs of medium shrimp, peeled, deveined; tail off
2 Jumbo eggs, beaten
1 T. Shriracha (Rooster Paste)
3/4 cup of Mayo
2 T. Shriracha
2 T. Honey
1 T. Fish Sauce
Zest of one lime
Cayenne Pepper, to taste (I like mine spicy, so I add a good pinch)
Minced green onion tops
Shredded green leaf lettuce
1. Mix Shriracha into beaten eggs and toss in shrimp. Coat shrimp with egg mixture and allow to marinate for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Mix together the mayo, Shriracha, honey, fish sauce, lime zest and cayenne pepper. Adjust spices to taste; I like mine spicy.
3. After the shrimp are finished marinating, drain them in a colander. Put about one cup of cornstarch into a large zip bag. Working with a handful of shrimp at a time, toss the shrimp in cornstarch to coat completely. Once coated, set aside on a sheet pan. Finish coating all of the shrimp.
4. In a cast iron skillet, bring an inch of oil to 350º. Fry shrimp a handful or two at a time until cooked and golden, turning once. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm until all the shrimp are fried.
5. Toss shrimp in enough sauce to coat. Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce. Sprinkle with the green onion tops.
By the way, you should read up on the rest of Al Copeland's story. He was a definite fixture in New Orleans, had multiple wives, close to a dozen children and was embroiled in more than a few scandals. I used to wait on him when I was a waitress at a restaurant that he frequented. He was a really nice guy, and did I mention how much I liked his biscuits?