One of the most original and best new dishes I’ve had in a Michelin starred restaurant over the last years was “Raw carabinero prawn on crispy strands of short rib (‘pulled’ short ribs, then deep fried) with roasted bell pepper, ginger, water melon, and X.O. cream” at Librije’s Zusje in Amsterdam, now called Spectrum (where it is now an amuse bouche). Although I often use dishes from restaurants with Michelin stars as inspiration, I usually don’t try to copy them. And I certainly do not claim that this is a copy of the dish by Sidney Schutte. I did not get a recipe from him. But it did turn out quite well and it even looks like the original. I have only eaten it twice and Sidney’s version is definitely better, but I was quite happy with this all the same.
Carabinero shrimp is a prized type of shrimp that is deep red even when raw and lives in deep waters. I could only find it frozen, which makes sense because, like lobster, shrimp deteriorates very quickly as soon as it dies. You could also use another type of large shrimp or scampi for this dish, as long as it is ‘frozen at sea’ fresh and you thaw it carefully and remove the head as soon as possible. (The main reason that shrimp deteriorates so quickly is because the digestive juices will start to attack the shrimp itself.) With careful thawing I mean to thaw it in cold water in the refrigerator.
Another special ingredient in here is XO sauce. This is a seafood sauce that was developed in the 1980s in Hong Kong for Cantonese cuisine. It is made with dried seafood and chillies. Chef Schutte worked some years in Hong Kong as a chef, and some of his dishes have been influenced by that. Schutte probably makes his own XO sauce, and although I’d like to try that some time for this experiment I used store-bought XO sauce.
For 4 servings
1 short rib, about 450 grams (1 lb)
8 carabinero shrimp
2 red bell peppers (Sidney and I both used an elongated version that is even sweeter called puntpaprika in the Netherlands)
120 grams (1/2 cup) diced water melon
1 Tbsp oil from XO sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger juice
smoked paprika, for dusting the plate
1/2 litre (2 cups) beef fat or oil for deep frying
Season the short rib with salt.
Cook sous-vide for 24 hours at 74C/165F.
Reserve the juices from the bag for another use, as there is a lot of flavor in there. ‘Pull’ the beef with two forks, discarding any connective tissue you encounter.
Make sure the beef is completely pulled into thin flakes.
Roast the peppers at 250C/480F until they are charred and blistered, about 15 minutes.
Allow the peppers to cool and then peel them.
Remove the seeds and stems, then cut into long strips. Season them lightly with salt.
Dice some water melon. Put the water melon cubes in a bowl, making sure there are no seeds in them.
To obtain fresh ginger juice, grate some fresh ginger.
Squeeze the juice out of the pulp.
Add 1 teaspoon of ginger juice to the water melon.
Add a tablespoon of oil from XO sauce to the water melon. Stir and allow the water melon to marinate.
In the meantime, peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse them under cold water and dry with paper towels.
Save the shrimp heads and shells for another use, like making shrimp stock. (You could also use them to make a replacement for the XO sauce in this recipe.)
I used a tortilla press to flatten the shrimp. Put each shrimp between two sheets of plastic wrap.
You could use any flat object to then flatten the shrimp. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and season lightly with salt.
Stack the flattened shrimp on top of each other with one sheet of plastic wrap in between. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I used beef fat to fry the short rib strands because it has a higher smoking point than oil and because it will provide a more beefy flavor.
Make sure the oil is very hot, at least 180C/350F, and deep fry the strands of short rib in it.
Lift them out as soon as they have crisped up.
Allow to drain on paper towels, using forks as needed to separate the strands so they don’t clump together as they cool. Season lightly with salt.
It may be wise to use a cover when deep drying (but allow moisture to escape by keeping it ajar) as residual moisture in the beef will make the oil splat.
Sprinkle each plate with paprika, using a sieve.
Place some water melon with the marinating liquid on each plate.
Place deep fried short rib on top.
Arrange the roasted pepper around the beef and water melon.
Cover with flattened shrimp, using two shrimp for each serving. Serve.
At the restaurant this was paired with an aromatic white wine from Slovenia. The closest I had in my cellar was a blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla from Friuli, just across the border from Slovenia in North-East Italy. This did indeed work well. The dish needs a complex white wine that is at least medium bodied and not too high in acidity.
To give this chili an amazing velvety texture and great depth of flavor I first brown the beef, and then grind (or dice) it and cook it sous-vide in the sauce. By grinding the beef after browning, the beef stays so much more juicy and tender.