Dancing Shrimp - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Dancing Shrimp

Thai street vendors serve this spicy seafood while it's still moving.

In the Northeast Thailand region of Isaan, cooks often serve meat raw, doused in a spicy, salty, sour marinade of chili, fish sauce, and lime. Street vendors sometimes take the uncooked element one step further, selling a dish known as “dancing shrimp” (goong ten) from double-basket carts. On one side, seasonings await. On the other, a heap of small, translucent shrimp try in vain to escape from beneath a cloth. These shrimp “dance” in the same way Japanese dancing ice fish do, in that they’re eaten alive.

To prepare this salad, vendors cover the wriggling shrimp in a marinade of lime juice, fish sauce, and ground chili mixed with fresh mint leaves, lemongrass, and sliced shallots. Customers often enjoy the seasoned shrimp with a side of sticky rice, a staple of Northeastern Thai cuisine. Those who might be anxious about eating a still-moving snack can opt to eat each bite swathed in a betel leaf. The traditional wrap conveniently prevents diners from accidentally making eye contact with their meal. Should curiosity get the better of you, however, a standard serving offers dozens of creatures you can stare down before eating alive.

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