Last Sunday I woke up early, made myself an espresso (or two) and crawled back into bed to read. I had just started Russ and Daughters: The House That Herring Built and I read roughly 1.4 pages before I decided I would die if I didn’t have a bagel for breakfast. I ran out and treated myself to a bialy — toasted, obvi — with scallion cream cheese, red onion, tomato and capers. The bagel quickly disappeared, and I started planning my next meal. (#coafg) It was a beautiful day, so The Boyfriend and I hopped a pair of citibikes and rode out to Smorgasburg in DUMBO. (Citibike recently stole the station across the street from our apartment for a few days. I was furious, even though I didn’t ride a citibike for the entire, terrible winter. “People live here! How can they do this to us? WHAT ARE WE, CHOPPED LIVER?” I quickly calmed down — after the station was restored — but now I use the bikes near our apartment as often as I can, lest they think they can steal my station again.)
Smorgasburg is the food-cart-food-court that sets up at the Brooklyn flea market. On Sundays, you can find them at Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, just on the other side of the Manhattan Bridge. (DUMBO = down + under + (the) + manhattan + bridge + overpass.) So we took a brisk ride over the bridge. I only had to take one break — to tie my jacket around my waist (#wheninbrooklyn) — and I took an extra moment to pat myself on the back for earning whatever delicious lunch I was going to pick out at Smorgasburg.
We wandered the food carts and tried to strategically choose our lunches. Mighty Quinns was out — their brick-and-mortar restaurant is just a few blocks from our apartment and not worth the over-the-bridge trek. Ditto Porcetta. In the end, The Boyfriend decided on a lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound and a couple seared tuna tacos from Takumi Taco. I was on my way to the ramen burgers (the “buns” are made out of NOODLES smooshed together into bun shape. As Carbs’ Biggest Fan, I can’t believe I still haven’t tried them) when I was distracted by some tiny little buns at Bite Size Kitchen.
I got myself one little bun, filled with seared pork belly and topped with pickled carrots, cucumber, and cilantro. I squeezed on a little sriracha and The Boyfriend and I kept walking. And then we stopped because he shouted “WOW, that is incredible!” and it surprised/scared me. But also, because my little pork bun was incredible. We got back in line at Bite Size Kitchen and got ourselves a couple more. Another pork belly, obviously, but also a bun stuffed with ground beef. We declared them the best food at Smorgasburg and were heartbroken to learn that the company does catering and does not have a brick-and-mortar restaurant in New York.
For the next couple of days, I couldn’t get those little buns out of my head. They were spicy, but fresh tasting. The pickled carrots and cucumbers were refreshing and crunchy, and the sriracha gave the whole thing an extra kick. I was dying to try making them at home. I had dreams of a slow-cooked pork filling and homemade little steamed buns. But we were going out of town for Memorial Day and I didn’t want to make amazing pork and buns just to leave them to get soggy and old in the fridge for three days.
So these wraps happened. If you make the pickled carrots a day in advance (so they have some time to get nice and pickle-y in the fridge) this refreshing meal comes together quickly enough to be a weeknight dinner.
- 1 pound Sriracha-Buttered Shrimp (recipe below)
- 1 batch pickled carrots (recipe below)
- 1 c. cooked white rice
- 1 head romaine, leaves rinsed and dried
- 1 cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
- ½ c. cilantro leaves, rinsed, dried, and chopped
- Peanuts (or spicy peanuts, if you happen to have any on hand) for topping
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small knob of ginger (about 2 inches long)
- 2 T. butter
- 6 T. sriracha sauce
- 1 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp
- 1 bunch carrots
- ½ c. white vinegar
- 2 T. sugar
- 1 T. kosher salt
- Dry your shrimp reallyyyyy well. My dad taught me that fresh seafood tastes fishy when it's cooked damp. I have no way of proving he is right, but it seems like he should be and, besides, I like the ritual of drying my seafood with paper towels until it's got a nice, dry exterior. I do this first and then leave the shrimp to the side while I prepare everything else. Then I give them one last pat down with a fresh paper towel before it goes on the stove.
- Thinly slice the garlic cloves and mince the ginger. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once it melts, toss in the garlic and ginger. After you can really smell the garlic and ginger, but before they start to brown, add the sriracha and stir until it's combined with the butter. Add in the shrimp and cook until they're light pink and opaque all the way through (you can break one in half with a spoon or spatula to check if they're cooked all the way through). Serve with their sauce, straight out of the skillet if you're feeling gutsy.
- Peel the carrots, cut in half lengthwise and trim into sticks (I was aiming for half-carrot-long matchsticks and got lazy. They were great anyway.) Arrange the carrots in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and pour over the vinegar, salt and sugar. Add water until the carrot sticks are completely submerged in the pickling liquid. (I know! That's all it takes to make pickling liquid. It's so easy, but sounds so fancy.) Screw on the lid and give the jar a couple hearty shakes.
- Let the carrots rest in the pickling liquid for at least an hour before serving. If you can wait a whole day, they will be even better. Pickled carrots will keep in the fridge for about a month, as long as they are submerged in the pickling liquid the whole time. If the liquid gets low, just add a little vinegar and water until they're completely covered again.
- Serve the shrimp, carrots, rice, romaine, cucumber, and cilantro on the table and let everyone assemble their owns wraps.
- Lay the lettuce on the plate, spoon on a small scoop of rice, pile on 3 shrimp (we liked cutting the shrimp in half to make the wraps easier to eat), put the carrots and cucumbers sort of beside the shrimp but still on top of the rice, and top with a pinch of cilantro. If you're feeling adventurous, add a few peanuts for extra crunch.
- Wrap the lettuce around the toppings and eat like a taco.