Canadian Thanksgiving is officially two weeks away, so I thought I’d squeeze one last rational recipe in before the onslaught of holiday content begins. Today’s Tajín Shrimp Bowls are by design extremely low-key. They are the perfect thing to eat while binging questionable television in a mostly clean hoodie. Or at least that’s what I did with them. This is strictly a meal I make when I’m home alone. Mostly because Sunny, my lovely and patient partner, is a shrimp-hater. He’s trying his best with other shellfish but shrimp has proven to be a bridge too far. But that’s fine, more shrimp for me.
Now, one essential component to these bowls that I couldn’t squeeze into the title is the Cilantro Remoulade. I realize it looks suspiciously like tartar sauce and in all honesty, it tastes a lot like it as well. But remoulade is different. It’s a French spread and dip comprised of mayo, capers, herbs, cornichon, anchovy, mustard, and vinegar. Some versions have all of these ingredients, while others only have three or four. In Creole cooking, remoulade usually contains some amount of hot sauce and/or cayenne. The version in this recipe is closer to the Creole style but instead of tarragon and chives, I used fresh cilantro to complement both the Tajín and curtido.
But before we go any further, perhaps we should cover what Tajín and curtido are. Tajín is a chili lime seasoning that hails from Jalisco, Mexico. It arrived on the market in 1985 and since then it has become a fixture of the cuisine. It’s a frequent ingredient in Micheladas and is often sprinkled on elotes or Mexican street corn. It was introduced to the US market in 1993 and from there it has slowly arrived on store shelves across Central America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. My personal favorite way to enjoy Tajín is to sprinkle it on fresh slices of mango – a low-maintenance riff on mango en palo.
Curtido is a fermented cabbage relish from El Salvador. It typically contains carrots, onions, and hot peppers. Its preparation involves salting the cabbage and leaving it to ferment in its own juices. This is the same process you would use to make kimchi and sauerkraut. It’s called Lacto-fermentation. The “Lacto” portion of the name comes from the lactic acids the sugars in an ingredient like cabbage produce when they break down in an oxygen-free environment. The acid unsurprisingly makes the food more acidic resulting in a funky, pickle-like flavor and a condiment that is essentially shelf stable.
The mango curtido in these Tajín Shrimp Bowls is more of a cheaters’ version of curtido. I basically made a quick pickle rather than putting the cabbage through a multiple-day fermentation process. Essentially, I deployed vinegar to get me across the finish line faster. It’s cheating but I’m willing to let myself off the hook seeing as vinegar is a product of Lacto-fermentation itself. But mostly, this speedy version of curtido makes these Tajín Shrimp Bowls attainable on a weeknight. But having said that you should try the more traditional curtido. It has more funk and personality but this version is good in a pinch and is fairly fridge stable. I ate the curtido for a solid week and it only improved with age. This recipe makes quite a lot.
Okay, so now that you’re acquainted with the cast, let’s put on the show. Everything starts with the curtido because even the speedy version needs time to chill. And yes, there is a fair amount of chopping ahead of you. But if you deploy a mandoline, you’ll get through it in half the time. Just make sure you have a safety glove handy while shredding the cabbage. Next, julienne some mango, and slice a couple of jalapenos into rings. I say a couple but if you’re sensitive to heat, only add one. The curtido will only get spicier as it sits. Finally, slice thin half-moons of red onion and mince a clove of garlic. Or use a garlic press, if you’ve had just about enough of the chopping.
Now, it’s time to cheat. Pour a 1/4 cup of white vinegar into a saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of raw sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Heat the mixture until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the mixture over your mountain of chopped fruit and veg and finish with some good-quality dried oregano. Give everything a stir and cover the bowl. Let chill and marinate for a minimum of three hours but the longer you leave it the better it will be. Overnight is best, but even mixing the curtido in the morning and serving it for dinner that night will yield excellent results.
Once the curtido is in a happy place, the rest of the recipe is a walk in the park. Mix the remoulade by piling everything into a bowl and giving it a stir. I’m not going to lie, there is a bit of chopping here too. But it’s just some minimal mincing of some garlic, cilantro, capers, and a single dill pickle. Nothing strenuous. You can make the remoulade several days in advance. And like the curtido, it gets better with age. We should all be so lucky.
When everything is pretty much ready to go, it’s time to tackle the shrimp. And this is truly the easiest thing in the world. Pour some melted butter over the suckers and sprinkle them all over with Tajín and that’s it. Really, no other ingredients are required. Just be sure to use unsalted butter as the Tajín is salty enough on its own. Introduce the shrimp to a hot cast-iron skillet and sear them on both sides. That’s it! You can now build your bowls. I added some avocado and extra mango, but you can have fun here. Add any additional toppings you please.
And that’s everything you need to know about these Tajín Shrimp Bowls with Mango Curtido. Surprisingly simple and as satisfying as they look, these bowls are the perfect nosh for a night on the couch.
Tajín Shrimp Bowls with Mango Curtido
- 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet
Speedy Mango Curtido
- ½ head savoy cabbage shredded **
- ½ red onion sliced thinly
- 2 jalapeño peppers sliced thinly
- 1 ataulfo mango peeled, julienned
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp raw sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup mayo
- 1 dill pickle minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp hot sauce I used Cajun Sunshine
- 2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
- 1 tbsp capers minced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 400 g (14 oz) shrimp peeled
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 tbsp Tajín
- 1 tsp dried oregano
For the Bowls
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 ataulfo mango peeled and sliced
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- Fresh cilantro to garnish
For the Curtido
- Place the cabbage, onion, jalapeños, garlic, mango, and dried oregano in a large bowl. Set it aside.½ head savoy cabbage, ½ red onion, 2 jalapeño peppers, 1 ataulfo mango, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp dried oregano
- Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and add the salt and sugar. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook until the salt and sugar dissolve.¼ cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp raw sugar, 1 tsp salt
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the fruit and veg and toss to coat. Cover and transfer to the fridge. Let marinate for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
For the Remoulade
- Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill until ready to serve.¾ cup mayo, 1 dill pickle, 1 clove garlic, 2 tbsp hot sauce, 2 tbsp cilantro, 1 tbsp capers, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp lime juice
For the Shrimp
- Place the shrimp in a large bowl and pour the butter, Tajín, and oregano over top. Toss to coat.400 g (14 oz) shrimp, 3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tbsp Tajín, 1 tsp dried oregano
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the shrimp to the skillet and sear on both sides until pink and lightly charred. This should only take a moment on each side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set them aside.
For the Bowls
- Place a cup of the brown rice in each bowl and top with 5-7 shrimp, a sizable amount of the curtido, 4 mango slices, and 2-3 avocado wedges. Garnish with the cilantro and serve alongside the Cilantro Remoulade.4 cups cooked brown rice, 1 ataulfo mango, 1 avocado, Fresh cilantro