Gambas al Ajillo is one of my favourite tapas, and an absolute must-order whenever I'm having Spanish food. I love the confluence of fragrant olive oil, pungent garlic, and fresh prawns brimming with sweetness, all kicked up a gear by the subtle punch of chilli.
Some people like their olive oil flavoured with shrimp essence, but I prefer mine simply seasoned with copious amounts of garlic.The key here is to use the absolute best extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on. We were recently gifted by a bottle of Argentina's best, and decided this was as good an occasion as any to pop it open to cook with!
While I usually abhor anything frozen, I'm quite partial to frozen prawns. Afterall, the prawns sold at the markets which have been defrosted and then chilled on ice, are no less fresh than those kept frozen in the freezers. So unless the prawns are the live ones that go straight from the watertanks to your fridge, I'd stick to the frozen shrimp for maximised freshness.
Be sure to have crusty bread on hand, you'll need to mop up all that aromatic delicious goodness!
To make the shrimp bouncy (like those in dim sum in the restaurants), I give it the baking soda treatment listed below.
Ingredients (feeds 4 as a side dish):
700 grams jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
25 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 dried red chillis, sliced into chunks
Salt to taste
The baking soda treatment for ultra crunchy shrimp:
1) Soak prawns in cold, mildly alkaline water.
2) Add 2 tbsp heaps of baking soda, and stir through. There'll be a little bubbling. Leave prawns alone for 30 minutes in the fridge.
3) Drain and wash in mildly alkaline water until prawns no longer feel "soapy".
1) Fry minced garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil until golden and crispy. Set aside and reserve.
2) Fry sliced garlic and dried chilli in remainder olive oil on low heat, about 10 minutes. It'll soften and disintegrate over the cooking process, making a garlicky olive oil mush.
3) Add prawns to cook through.
4) Salt to taste, and sprinkle with fried golden garlic before serving in individual bowls.