I’d been wondering for a long time about how shrimp is stretched for tempura, but in particular for grilling as done for the Nobu recipes. Tsuji discusses the topic on p.237,238 of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art about making a series of horizontal cuts across the shrimp belly and then tapping the back with the back of the knife (it turns out you have to do this hard enough to break the connective tissue so the shrimp stays flat – something not explained in the book). Matsuhisa-sama comments “…lightly score lines ALL OVER the shrimp with the heel of the knife blade (This ha-uchi technique (p.19), prevents the shrimp from curling up when cooked)…” (Nobu: The Cookbook p. 49).
Chef Hiroyuki Terada gives a wonderful demonstration on how to prepare the shrimp so that they don’t curl up using three different techniques here:
So I went over to HMart Burlington and was surprised to see that they had U4 tiger shrimp; so I got 6 of them for Saturday
night’s Korean BBQ. When I got them home, my wife and I decided to use 3 of them and so I defrosted them in a ziplock bag immersed in water for about an hour. I first took the head off, removed the shell and carefully removed the tail. The
head and shells I reserved in the freezer when I wanted to make shrimp stock (think shrimp stock based Sauce Americaine
or shrimp flavored chawanmushi). Like Terada, I carefully cut through the back and removed the intestinal tract. Once that
was done, I made medium deep cuts at the segment lines of the shrimp body. It turns out my first try at keeping the shrimp stretched out straight required me to make extra cuts between the cuts I’d made. Once I placed the shrimp right-side up on the board I was able to lightly pull the shrimp straight and felt that ‘pop’ of the shrimp body yielding to the stretching process (breaking the connective tissue). I repeated the process twice more and the seasoned the shrimp with with 3 3-fingered pinchfuls of 4:1 salt/pepper mix and
set aside for the on table BBQ that we were going to have in the evening.
So as my wife fired up the tabletop BBQ skillet, we put on some vegetables and a few slices of thinly sliced pork just to get a
good sense how hot the BBQ skillet was (she had set the skillet at 350 degrees F). Once the meat came off, we put on 2 of
the nobashi ebi, rightside up and then cooked each side for about a minute or so. It was success! The stretched out shrimp didn’t curl up! So that meant I now could do home preparations for grilled/broiled or tempura shrimp. So now the dish I want to do is Nobu West’s Dublin Bay Prawn/Langoustine Cocktail (p.18,19) using colossal shrimp in nobashi format as an appetizer course!