8 Jan 2013

Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic (Gambas al Pil Pil)

My rendition of the Gambas al Pil Pil

The first time I had ever heard of this mouth watering dish was when my husband took the family to try out a quaint restaurant specialising in French & Mediterranean cuisine here in Bangkok called Crepes & Co. Crepes & Co had their first branch at Lang Suan soi 1. Now you can find them in Thong Lor, Hua Hin and even Shanghai. Go to their website to read more about this superb restaurant. Their crepes are to die for.  

Crepes & Co. in Thong Lor

We wanted a savoury starter while we waited for our crepes to be prepared. This dish came sizzling in the pan straight from the kitchen served with fresh warm pita bread. We took the first bite and love struck.

I was so excited over this dish that when my mom-in-law came to Bangkok from Denmark we took her here. But she was quite adamant about taking some salad instead of this fat infused dish due to health reasons. I persuaded her to give it one chance, one eensy weensy bite. And oh lordie, she was a goner. We soaked up the delicious oil sauce with the pita bread till the pan was glistening. 

How difficult could it be to recreate this dish at home, I thought? And so I did and it turned out fabulous but not as fabulous as when I tried the Williams-Sonoma recipe. Then it was incredibly fabulous. 

Gambas al Pil Pil (picture courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)

Let me share with you my adaptation of this recipe. Get your fresh warm crusty baguette ready because trust me, you'll be needing it.

You'll want to have plenty of bread on hand to capture the delicious pan juices from these garlicky crustaceans. This Basque tapa, called gambas al ajillo in other parts of Spain, is traditionally served at the table sizzlingpil pileandoin a little metal pan. Sherry or lemon juice is not always used, but either one adds a nice contrast to the richness of the oil and garlic. You can easily substitute squid, cut into rings 1/2 inch wide, or sea or bay scallops for the shrimp. 
I just realised I forgot to add in the flat-leaf parsley. Hmm.

Gambas al-i-pebre, a variation with garlic and hot red pepper from the Albufera region of Valencia, has a more substantial sauce of rich fish stock thickened with fried bread, ground almonds and pine nuts. It is quite filling and is thus usually served as a main course. This same peppery variation was originally made with eel.


  • 4 to 5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp of chicken cube (powdered form)
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. dry sherry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and paprika and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Increase the heat to high, add the shrimp, lemon juice and sherry, stir well, and sauté until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

*The chicken stock powder is my own addition. I added it in right after the shrimps. 
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Spain & Portugal, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 2000).

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