Grilled Chipotle-Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

by on June 14, 2010

My Calphalon Contest Entry with Chipotle-Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

Plate of Tacos Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

I’ve had a thing for shrimp this year.   I guess not really just this year, more like ever since I “discovered” the Korean supermarkets in town.  The fish, plentiful and fresh, swimming around in a wall of sparkling clean tanks is quite a sight to see in a local supermarket and the bins with all sizes of shrimp sitting on refrigerated tables immersed in ice with scoops and plastic bags at the ready for customers to dive into is always inviting.

Ready Shrimp 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

That in mind, when I learned about the Calphalon contest for Williams-Sonoma employees I knew just what I was going to do and it involved shrimp and a grill pan.  Specifically the new Calphalon Kabob pan.   Save that thought for a moment.

Suculent Shrimp 1024x482 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

I know the shrimp aren’t domestic, heck, it’s tough to find US fished shrimp in our area at all and for that reason the imported shrimp come in well priced; between $4.99 and $5.99/lb. for medium shrimp.  Then again, it’s likely US fished shrimp is about to sky rocket and will probably be high for a very long time to come.  Even if the oil stops flowing into the ocean, it’s not looking good for wildlife in the shrimp fishing region of the Gulf of Mexico.  Sad.

Anyway …

Grilling the Shrimp 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

Once I decided shrimp using the new kabob pan was on the menu I needed to decide what to do with them.  You know planning is not my usual M.O.  I’m more the — look in the kitchen and see what ingredients are there waiting to be combined to make a meal with type.  But I had a craving for tacos and while fish tacos are great, I’ve yet to come up with a fish taco recipe I’ve been successful with so I thought — ah ha!  Use the grill pan and make tacos using shrimp.

I’d never had a shrimp taco before, but it sounded darn good and the convenience of skewering the shrimp and being able to turn them in multiples would make the chore of grilling that much easier.  The pan has notches at different levels so that if the shrimp got done before I was ready to build the tacos, I could prop them up in the upper notch to keep them warm.  Crafty engineering.

Tamarind and Lemongrass1 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

It didn’t stop there.  I needed some flavor.  I couldn’t call these things tacos just because I wrapped them in a corn tortilla, so what was I going to pull together?  I went to the fridge to forage.  In front of me sat a small glass bowl with the remainder of a can of Chipotle in Adobo.  Smoky peppers in a hot, tart sauce.  GREAT!  Chipotle Grilled Shrimp Tacos. Yum!  As I pulled the refrigerator door closed I spied another, smaller glass bowl.  Tamarind paste!

Tamarind Close Up Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

And on the counter was a glass with a small stalk of rooting lemongrass.  Score!  Chipotle and Tamarind Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Lemongrass and Cabbage-Avocado Slaw.  I was creating a Latino/Asian Fusion dish.

Suculent Shrimp Tacos 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

I made it once and the result was a fabulous dinner.  But it needed work.   The texture was good.  The taste was great.  The meal was delicious.  Never satisfied, I decided I needed to try a 2nd time to make the tortillas, the vehicles for getting the shrimp to my mouth easier to handle — the tortillas needed help.

Taco Dinner Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

This time I added a side dish;  Corn on the cob with butter, salt and queso fresco.  Perfect combo.  I also decided that instead of steaming the tortillas I’d put them on the grill pan for a little color and a more pliable texture that resisted just a bit when I bit into the tacos.

Close Up of Shrimp 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

But wait!  That’s not all … I needed a 3rd try so that I could get the measurements right.  Remember a couple of months ago when I told you I’m not an experienced or skilled recipe writer?  It’s true, but I’ve learned how the process works a bit better now.  After reading Dianne Jacob’s posts on recipe writing and the comments that followed, I was much more cognizant of the details of this recipe.  I made some major edits using some of her suggestions and garnered great info from some of the comments in response to her posts.  The 2nd time around I took a copy of the printed draft into the kitchen with a pen and it lived on the counter, close at hand, at the ready for edits.

Shrimp Tacos and Corn 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

And edit, I did.  Quarter cups became tablespoons, pinches became definitive 1/4 teaspoons, sugar became tamarind paste and titles changed, and changed again.  It’s not easy, this recipe-writing stuff and I didn’t expect it to be, but if I’m going to submit a recipe to be considered for a prize from the company that employs me, I want to be sure it can be reproduced and that it’s a recipe people will have no trouble preparing and serving to friends and family to rave reviews.  I had help from a few people.  They read, they edited, we discussed and I’m so glad I had their eyes to help ferret out the mistakes — typos, missing ingredients from the list, incorrect measurements, and style.

Close Up Tacos with Queso Blanco 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

And yes, it may seen extreme, but we’ve established long ago that I’m a rather competitive type and if I’m going to enter a contest, I’m not going to go 1/2 way.  WholeFoods wanted 1 dish for $4.00, I submitted a meal.  CNN was looking for a brown bag lunch, I submitted a brown bag feast.  I’ve met my goal this time.  I’ve submitted a delicious dish that’s sure to please.  If I were writing for publication in a cookbook or a magazine or something like that I’d ask for recipe testers, but I kept this recipe close to the vest because –  hell yeah I’m competitive and I want to win — for the sake of being a winner.

Camarones 774x1024 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

The recipe’s been sitting here in the Draft Folder for a couple of weeks, but it’s been formally submitted so it’s time to share.  Win or lose, this recipe is a winner that I’ll be making again and again.  I’m feeling a summer party coming on.  What do you think?  Worthy of your time in the kitchen?

Grilled Tortillas Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

Tacos and Corn 1024x774 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

This recipe is not as complicated as its length may make it seem.  I’ve broken the ingredients into 3 components; Shrimp, Slaw and Tortillas.  It uses just 2 pots/pans — a 1 1/2 Quart Saucepan and the new Calphalon Kabob Pan.  And with marinating time, it should take no longer than 45 minutes from preparation to table.

Serves 4

Grilled Chipotle and Tamarind Shrimp Tacos

Ingredients for Shrimp:

  • 6 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • 1 inch of Lemongrass smashed, if available or a Teaspoon Lemongrass in a jar from the spice aisle
  • 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Chipotle in Adobo Sauce and 2 of the smaller Chili’s in the can, seeded and finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Tamarind Paste — if you don’t have a market that sells international products, Tamarind Paste is available on Amazon.  I made my own paste using a block of tamarind and heating it in a saucepan until it became a paste and straining it into a storage jar.  You can forgo Tamarind paste altogether or use a tart jam like Apricot in it’s place and reduce to 1 tablespoon
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 large Green Onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Oregano flakes (not ground)
  • 1 lb. Medium Large Shrimp (31/35), peeled, cleaned and de-veined
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  1. In a small skillet, heat the oil.  Add the garlic and lemongrass to the pan to infuse flavors for 1 minute on medium high heat, taking care not to color the garlic so that it retains it’s sweet flavor from the heat.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. While the infused oil is cooling, in a separate bowl large enough to comfortably fit the shrimp and marinade, mix the chipotle sauce and minced chipotle pepper, tamarind paste, lime juice, green onion and oregano .  Add the cleaned shrimp.  Once the oil is cool enough to not cook the shrimp, add to the marinade and let sit for 15 – 30 minutes.
  3. While the shrimp is marinating, put together the cabbage and avocado salad:

Ingredients for Cabbage-Avocado Salad

  • 2 Cups Green Cabbage, Shredded or cut into julienne slices — I use a hand held mandolin for this job
  • 2 Green Onions sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Cilantro Leaves, chopped or torn in large pieces
  • 1 Avocado, cut in chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons Lime Juice — this will keep the avocado from browning
  • 1 Jalapeño Pepper, finely minced — for less heat, remove the ribs and seeds
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  1. Combine all ingredients and gently toss, taking care not to mash avocado chunks.  Let sit in the refrigerator while working with the shrimp allowing the flavors to meld.

Cook the Shrimp:

  1. When the shrimp is done marinating, remove to a plate, pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.  Once boiling, reduce to a simmer while the shrimp is cooking.
  2. Heat the kabob pan.  Skewer the shrimp, sliding 4 – 6 shrimp on each skewer.  Place the kabobs on the lower notch so that the shrimp makes contact with the pan and cook on medium high for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is just cooked — opaque — taking care not to over cook.   The shrimp will continue to cook when the skewers are removed from the pan as the skewers are still hot, so slide the shrimp off and onto a plate as soon as possible.

Remove the simmering marinade off the heat and set aside.

Prepare the Tortillas:

  1. Brush the tortillas with oil and grill on each side until light grill marks appear, but don’t cook too long or the tortillas will be too firm to fold.

Build the Tacos:

  • 12 Corn Tortillas
  • 3/4 Cup Queso Fresco, crumbled — if you don’t have access to cheese from Central America such as Queso Fresco, Farmer’s Cheese is a good substitute
  • Vegetable oil for brushing on the tortillas
  • Reserved and heated Shrimp Marinade
  • 2 limes, wedged for squeezing on finished tacos
  1. Place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon 1 teaspoon of cooked marinade on the tortilla, add 2 – 3 shrimp, top with avocado-cabbage salad and fold.
  2. Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco.


~To steam the tortillas, enclose them in stacks of 6 in a kitchen towel and place in a microwave for 30 – 45 seconds, just until they become pliable.  They’ll steam inside the folded towel in the heat of the microwave.

~To save calories, heat on a pan without oil until pliable enough to fold.

~To create a hard shell taco, fry in hot oil.  When removing from the oil, fold in the shape of a taco.  The tortilla will firm up as it cools.

~To create a different shrimp texture, mix up a batter and fry the shrimp, rather than grilling.

Buen Provecho!

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 Grilled Chipotle Tamarind Shrimp Tacos In 2007 my career with a large, but shrinking high tech Fortune 50 \"left me,\" leaving a void in my life. While lamenting the loss and flying around the world looking for a new career to get married to, I discovered a way to use a familiar outlet during tough times -- writing. My blog-writing morphed into writing about my favorite past time -- Food! I purchase food, sell food, make food, watch food being made, broadcast meal preparation, photograph and blog about food. Like I said; Food! To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.

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RichardNo Gravatar June 14, 2010 at 8:18 am

Fran, Those Tacos look scrumptious! Since they are Gluten Free I will definitely be give them a try.

Good luck with the contest! :-)

Fran@frantasticfood.No Gravatar June 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Richard! I hope you like them. I'll be curious to hear how they turned out.

Jane MNo Gravatar June 14, 2010 at 10:52 am

I HOPE YOU WIN WIN WIN THE CONTEST! That griddle pan with the slots cut open for the skewers is very very cool. I do love shrimps meself! YUM! How long before you hear who won the contest so I DON'T ASK YOU EVERY DAY??????????? And what does the winner win for this contest??

Fran@frantasticfood.No Gravatar June 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Jane, the prize is just getting your recipe in a cookbook the company is putting together for employees. I just want to win win win! :)

The grill pan works so so so well. I'd like to have one.

nishaNo Gravatar June 15, 2010 at 1:18 am

Hi Fran..thanks for dropping by my blog…i love love love tacos and yes shrimp only prob is, i cant find these tiny tortillas and i don think il succeed in making them :(

but am gonna book mark this cos i love th whole shrimp, tamarind idea

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