Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
1 dozen shrimp, head on (with shells) for the shrimp marinade:
½ cup fish sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup cooking oil (such as canola or grapeseed) for the Naam Jim seafood sauce:
4 large cloves of garlic
pint of kosher salt
10 Thai chilies or habaneros (if you can't find Thai)
1/3 cup fish sauce
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
chopped cilantro, to taste
Chef's Tip: Find a dozen or so of the highest quality prawns or shrimp that you can find. Live or fresh is always a good thing, but there are also some really awesome frozen ones that you can find at Japanese markets that sell fish for sashimi. 12/14 is a good size. That means there are between 12 and 14 prawns per pound. For grilling, I prefer a larger prawn because it will remain juicier while the smaller prawns have a higher chance of overcooking. The most important part is that you get them "head on, shell on" which means they are fully intact instead of pre-peeled. 1) Make the fish marinade by mixing the fish sauce, sugar, and white pepper together. Let the prawns bathe in the marinade for about five minutes. Doing this while the shell is still on allows the prawns to absorb a little extra flavor while not being overpowered by the marinade.
2) Remove the prawns from the marinade, but don't toss it, because you might want to use it while you're grilling. Peel the prawns by inserting a small knife along the center of the back ridge, right between where the head shell meats the body shell. Insert the knife deep enough so that you can splay the prawn out (butterflying it) but not so deep that you end up with two separate segments. Clean any gunk out of the prawn with your knife. Discard the shell and tail but keep the head intact.
3) Wiggle the prawns onto the skewers starting at the tail end, so that the point ends up somewhere in the head. Set aside until ready to grill.
4) Make the "Seafood Sauce," which is a simple condiment that's tart, a little sweet, a little salty, and a little hot. (It's good for dipping things beyond seafood items, but is ubiquitous at seaside restaurants that specialize in charcoal-grilled prawns, squid, fish, etc.)
5) Pound the garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle. Throw in a pinch of salt before pounding. Remove and set aside.
6) Next, mince and then pound the chilies in a mortar and pestle or a food processor, but be sure to pulse the ingredients one at a time if you do. Set aside.
7) Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, and white sugar. Add the crushed garlic and chilies. Stir, add another pinch of salt, and top with chopped cilantro.
8) Getting the right heat on the grill can be a little tricky. You want it hot enough to get some smoky flavor going, but mild enough to where you can cook the prawns evenly. Add the cooking oil to the remaining marinade. Turn the prawns every so often and brush with the marinade to keep them juicy. Cook them to your desired doneness. I like them just slightly pink on the inside.
9) Serve with Naam Jim seafood sauce and be sure to suck the juices from the heads.