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Frozen shrimp (Recipe: rice stick noodle salad with caramelized shrimp)


In 1953, the year I was born, gentlemen preferred blondes, and diamonds were a girl's best friend.

Clearly, I'm not big on bling, because frozen shrimp are this girl's best friend.

Here in New England, there's no shortage of fresh fish; Boston is, after all, the home of the bean and the cod. In Rhode Island, we take great pride in our quahogs (co-hogs, we call them), the hardshell clams that morph into stuffies, clam rolls and chowdah, which comes in white or red.

Yes, we've got fish and shellfish galore, but we don't have fresh shrimp. Every single shrimp in this area arrived, on ice or frozen solid, from somewhere else: Thailand, Japan, Taiwan perhaps, or the Gulf of Mexico.

Second only to canned tuna in popularity in the US, shrimp are low in calories and nutrient-dense. They've gotten a bit of a bad rap for being high in fat and cholesterol, but in fact, they a healthier protein source than eggs.

Good quality, good-tasting frozen shrimp is the ultimate pantry staple; it's the go-to convenience food when you want to kick up your everyday cooking. Though it seems expensive to buy the two- or three-pound bag, you'll use just a few at a time, and they will keep in the freezer for a few months. Find a brand you like, from a fishmonger you trust; some brands are salty, some waterlogged, some taste like soap — and some taste like heaven.

Shrimp is sold (fresh or frozen) by the number per pound: 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-40, and so on. The lower the number, the larger the shrimp. This can make it tricky when you're following a recipe that calls for "large" shrimp. I tend to keep two sizes in the freezer, the 21-25 size (which is called "jumbo", but I think of them as large; and 31-40, which is labelled "large" but look "medium" to me).

Store frozen shrimp in the freezer right up until the moment you're ready to use them. Defrost only as many as you need, under cold running water, never in the fridge or sitting out on the countertop. In two minutes, you'll be ready to make elegant Cuban shrimp, smoky citrus tea shrimp, shrimp ceviche, Panamanian shrimp in garlic sauce, green curry shrimp, healthy shrimp dip, and New Orleans' favorite shrimp remoulade.

Lucky for me, the gentleman in my life prefers good food to blondes. And I prefer shrimp to diamonds, any day of the week.  

Rice stick noodle salad with caramelized shrimp

Just as I was about to finish this post, with a different recipe, my dear friend Candy sent along this recipe for a salad she created just last weekend. It combines many of my favorite things: shrimp, noodles, lime and mint. How lovely of her to share it! Serves 4, easily doubled for 8.


For the dressing:
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced fine
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes

For the shrimp:
1 lb jumbo shrimp (16-20) or tiger prawns (14-15)
1 large garlic clove, minced fine
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chili oil

For the shrimp sauce:
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp water

For the noodles:
1 lb rice stick noodles (I use 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide Vietnamese noodles)

For the salad:
1 English cucumber, halved, seeded, cut in 2-inch long sections, then into julienne strips
4 scallions, cut first into 2-inch long sections, then into julienne strips
1/2 red pepper, cut, seeded, cleaned, then into 2-inch long julienne strips
1 cup Asian white radish, sliced into thin julienne strips

1 cup fresh mint sprigs
1/2 cup cilantro sprigs
1 cup Thai basil leaves (sprigs)
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts


In a bowl stir together all dressing ingredients until sugar dissolves. Chill, covered, 1 hour.

Shell and devein shrimp, dry between paper towels.

Stir the shrimp sauce ingredients together to dissolve the sugar.

In a bowl soak noodles in hot water to cover, for 15 minutes to soften. While noodles are soaking, bring 6 quarts salted water to boil. Drain noodles in colander and cook in boiling water 45 seconds, or until just tender. Drain noodles and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain again and with scissors cut into 4-inch lengths.

Heat the oil in the pan, stir fry the garlic and onion 1 minute, add the shrimp, pepper, and the sauce.  Cook for about 2-4 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked.  Take from heat and cool.  Halve shrimp lengthwise.

The finale:
On individual plates, combine the noodles, salad ingredients and dressing, then top with shrimp and peanuts. Let each diner tear mint, cilantro and basil leaves onto the top of their salads.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I am a huge fan of frozen shrimp. I just made a Shrimp and Macaroni salad yesterday for my Dad that I'll be posting soon. (It's Shrimp first in the title, because I use a lot more shrimp than I do macaroni, and Dreamfield's pasta for lower carbs too.)

This salad sounds like something I'd love too!! So many wonderful things to make with wonderful frozen shrimp.

Wow -- wonderful sounding recipe!!! I am definitely going to try it.

Just a note: When you buy frozen shrimp, look for wild or gulf shrimp. Most imported frozen shrimp is farmed in Asia or Mexico or South America, and to keep them alive in crowded conditions, they feed them lots of antibiotics. I have a bumper sticker on my wall that says "Friends don't let friends eat imported shrimp."

Lydia, I always have two bags of frozen shrimp (med and small size) in my freezer, too. I don't use them for anything requiring fresh shrimps (like salad), but they are convenient for curry, or mince stuffing.

I always keep a bag in the fridge -- I've concocted some wonderful appetizers using frozen shrimp, that never fail to impress!

Kalyn, I love the idea of a shrimp and macaroni salad that has more shrimp than pasta. Most salads are just the opposite. I'll be watching for your recipe.

Christine, you make an excellent point about farmed shrimp. I have a hard time finding wild or gulf shrimp in the markets in my small town, but when I'm in the city I can get great shrimp at my favorite fishmonger. Here's an interesting article about this issue:

Anh, yes, I always keep two sizes on hand, too.

TW, frozen shrimp can be a lifesaver when you need to make something ordinary into something a bit elegant. Works for me every time.

I absolutely love shrimp too...frozen or fresh. Even in CA, I think most shrimps sold here are frozen...like you said, from Venezuela, the Gulf, Thailand, and even Malaysia. As a Malaysian, I was so surprised to find frozen shrimp (100 counts) from Malaysia. It felt weird, these shrimps must be flown in or shipped from Malaysia to here and I am eating them in the US of A..LOL. :)

I prefer the wild caught, but they are not easy to find. Whole Foods carries them frozen and sometimes fresh, but other markets are strictly Asian farm-raised. For a very short time I could purchase Emeril's brand of frozen Gulf shrimp from my closest supermarket, but that source disappeared within a few months of my discovering it.

I guess I've never really thought of my freezer as pantry but in actual fact that's really what it comes down to. The thing I love about items from the freezer is just that ability to use the exact number that you need!
Beautiful salad recipe!!

Very interesting post! Thank you for the link ;)

Rasas Malaysia, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I remember having fresh shrimp on the beach in Malaysia -- it was cooked in some kind of hot chile sauce with noodles, and was so amazingly delicious.

Susan, I'll check Whole Foods on my next visit to the big city. Didn't know Emeril was doing shellfish.

Tanna, thanks. My freezer and fridge are definitely part of my pantry!

Melissa, thanks for visiting. I love your blog.

Hi Lydia, give me frozen shrimp anytime! It beats what I find here most of the time - pre-cooked. Ugh. Yep, it can taste like soap sometimes, and there's not much more you can do to them if they're already cooked!

Hey, it's 2007, and it seems to me gentlemen still prefer blonds! :)

HI Lydia,
Your dish sounds yum, even if you've used frozen shrimps. Though I'm allergic to seafood, I can't stop myself from envying those who can indulge themselves on seafood! :)

I am so glad you used this recipe! I am making it again tonight, and if I have any changes, I will let you all know. Lydia, you surely have started me on the path to Southeast Asian cooking. Thanks. Candy

couldn´t agree more. I think frozen puff pastry is pretty much a best friend, too, but you can´t beat the defrosting speed of these babies.

Shilpa, the pre-cooked shrimp is always awful and overcooked, and waterlogged. I'd much rather control the cooking time and seasoning. (and if gentlemen really do prefer blondes, don't tell my husband!)

Valentina, I think you could adapt this wonderful dish with tofu or something other than chicken, and aubstitute some light soy sauce for the fish sauce.

Candy, this is such a great recipe. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Ximena, puff pastry is pretty darned cool, too. I think I can find some in my pantry.....!

They do speed thaw well w/o suffering in the freeze. As for girl's best friend I can't help picturing them slung so delicately on a pair of ears...

Callypgia, now I can't stop thinking about little shrimp earrings.....!

Frozen shrimp isa staple in our house. I usually stock up on the easy peel when its on sale at our Harris Teeter! Great post!

Thx for the tips, Lydia. I don't usually read the instructions on the bag, but at one time, I bought this white shrimps, and the instructions says to wrap the shrimps in aluminum foil and store it in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to 2 days ? Never heard of this method before.

Deborah, is Harris Teeter a grocery store? It's new to me, though I do wander around your part of the world from time to time. I think frozen shrimp are a lifesaver. Never as good as the fresh shrimp I've had in Louisiana, but a great alternative in the pantry.

MeltingWok, that kind of storage method makes me a bit nervous. I'd always keep shrimp on ice, and once defrosted, I wouldn't try to store them in the fridge.

I always find a use for frozen shrimp. That with a great pasta sauce and I am all set!

I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer. It's an easy way to make a quick yet elegant dinner. Thanks for the delicious recipe as well.

I have a heck of a tim finding wild shrimp here so it is a rare treat at my hous.

Veron, it's great to pull a few shrimp out of the freezer and tossing them with just about anything. I like to jazz up a humdrum salad with a couple of shrimp on top. To me, that's an almost perfect dinner.

Susan, I love any recipe that puts noodles and shrimp together.

Mimi, in my little town it's impossible to find wild shrimp. When I visited New Orleans, the availability of fresh (not previously frozen) wild shrimp in every restaurant, cafe, and roadside stand just blew my mind. I ate shrimp every day, sometimes twice a day. Could not get enough of it.

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