Today I thought about making shrimp the way my dad makes and so I called him up and asked him what he does.

All that was left after I finished eating.
In my head I guessed he might have grilled (nướng) the shrimp with just garlic, fish sauce (nước mắm), and pepper. In reply, he said the process is called "ram," which is between "kho có nước" (roughly, to stew having water) and "chiên" (to fry). Then he walked me through all the little steps.

My Dad's Instructions (Roughly):
1. Devein the shrimp by snapping the part of it which attaches to the end and pulling from the top or bottom. 2. Use paper to soak the water after washing the shrimp. Otherwise the excess water will pop when cooking.

Shrimp from Safeway
3. Wash and cut the vegetables while the shrimp dries.* 4. Begin heating the pan and when it's hot add the butter (bơ)/oil (dầu). The butter bubbles so we add some oil to reduce the bubbling. 5. Then add the shrimp, spreading them out so that each piece touches the pan. 6. Turn the shrimp and cook the two sides like a rare steak. 7. Then add garlic, fish sauce, sugar, peppers, green onion, etc.** Bacon oil is also an optional ingredient at this step.

Green Onion and Pepper
*It's important to do this ahead of time so that they can quickly be added after partially cooking the shrimp. Otherwise the shrimp would be well done, hard, and less juicy.
**We add these here and not earlier, because these ingredients will release water, which we don't want before this step.

[20160403 Edit]

Thawing the shrimp. (20160319)
While I went out and bought the shrimp two days ago, I didn't have the motivation to cook them until today.

Steps Taken:
1. Luckily for me, the shrimp I bought had already been deveined. 2. As such I washed them and let them dry. 3. Then I cut up about half a pepper, a couple stalks of green onion, and some garlic (about two cloves). I also chopped up an oddly shaped red onion.

Red Onion
Optional. Deciding to use the bacon oil, I cooked some uncured hickory smoked thick sliced bacon (about five strips) and poured the fat into the bowl with all the chopped ingredients. 3. In the bowl was also a spoon of sugar and a little bit of fish sauce. 4. Next I heated up a pan, added about a third a half stick of butter (approx. 1.5 tablespoons) and some oil.

Mmm... bacon. (20160319)
Feeling as if I had put too much oil, I poured some of the oil and butter out into a bowl before adding the shrimp. 5, 6. After I added the shrimp, I placed them in one by one, and then started flipping them. 7. Then when they turned reasonably pink, I poured in the bowl of ingredients and let it all cook for a while. 8. Along the way, my aunt - who had been watching - opened up a jar labeled "Shrimp Paste with Soya Bean Oil" and scooped some of its contents into my pan. While I was a bit surprised, it added a nice red color to the sauce. 9. Added some freshly ground pepper.

Where there is bacon...
While I didn't remember to take any notes on how the shrimp tasted, I gobbled up as much as I could before feeling full. In fact, I ate them so fast, there were only about three left when I realized I forgot to take any pictures of the cooked shrimp! Whether they were just absolutely delicious or I was just absolutely hungry, I vaguely remember them tasting juicy and having a nice buttery and/or bacon flavor to them (though not overwhelming).

...there is bacon grease.
I also recall my aunt tried one or two pieces and might have considered the shrimp a bit on the bland side. This would best reflect the small amount of garlic and fish sauce used relative to what may be considered average.

Notes for Later:
While writing up this post, one of the things I read about was how to render bacon fat. In short, cook bacon in a cast-iron pan over low heat to get out a bunch of fat. Strain the fat into a glass jar.

A package will yield about half a cup of fat. The article I read also suggested to just use regular bacon (as opposed to flavored bacon).

Of course, by the time of this post, I have also repeated the above two more times. I'll post them as soon as I can.

[20160403 Edit]

Green onion and Pepper
Being one of my favorite foods to eat, I was quick to prepare shrimp for a second time.

As a short summary, I felt as if I took less time preparing the shrimp today than the last time.

Steps Taken:*
1. This time around I bought a package of shrimp from the frozen aisle.

Right to Left: Whole Clove, Crushed Clove, Peeled Clove
Emptying about half the bag into a basket, I ran cold water over the shrimp and let them thaw. Like with the shrimp I used before, these shrimps had already been deveined.

3. While waiting, I prepared three cloves of garlic, some green onion, what remained of the pepper from last week, and half an onion. Optional. Next I cooked some bacon to obtain its oils, but this time I randomly threw in some of the onion I had cut.

After draining the bacon oil, I lightly cleaned the pan with a slice of onion. 4. Next I sliced butter (about 1.5 tablespoons) into the pan and decided to omit the vegetable oil.

5, 6. Ready to add the shrimp, I placed them around the plan so that they were all oriented the same direction. This made it easy to keep track of which I had already flipped.

It almost didn't fit.
7, 9. I then added the previously prepared ingredients and eventually remembered to add fish sauce (nuoc mem), sugar, and freshly ground pepper.
*The items are numbered with respect to my previous post.

For the most part, the dish had a dominantly garlic taste - I added more today than I did last time. While I didn't remember the nuoc mem and sugar until later, I'm not sure it made a difference.

The ingredients have now been added.
Overall, I liked the finished product and believe it tasted better than my last attempt. It should, however, be noted that I did not add any shrimp paste this time around. 3:04PM PT

[20160407 Edit]

Finished! (20160319)
Relevant Links:
Shrimp and Asparagus

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