Pub Night: Firecracker Shrimp with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce


It’s Thursday, it’s Thursday!  That means it’s pub night, it’s PUB NIGHT!!  WHEEEEE!!!!  Well, it would be pub night if I didn’t have that pesky job-thing which precludes binge drinking until 3 am on a weeknight.  Silly ‘responsibilities’ and ‘adult behavior’.  Anyway, given a choice, if I didn’t have to be up before the crow cackled tomorrow morning, I would be much happier sitting in a room with textured wall paper and a local band on stage, busy butchering songs that I never much liked anyway.  Ah yes, Thursdays.

I should mention something about Thursdays, and perhaps this is why I have so much affection for the Thursday night pub crawl.  As you may know, I waitressed/served/bartended for..uh…oh god, I hate saying this….roughly half my life.  And before you start doing the derelict math on that, I started young.  Bear that in mind.  Anyway, the last bar that I worked at (which I remained at for almost 6 years) had a sort of shift seniority, which is to say that once you got put on a shift it kind of became yours.  Until they changed their mind.  Although the schedule changed as often as my panties, in the almost six years that I was there I worked pretty much every Thursday night….and every Christmas Eve, but that’s another fish to fry.

These are the things that I liked about working Thursday night:

  • There were regulars who would come every Thursday without fail.  They would always sit in the same seats, drink the same bevys, eat the same food, and request the same songs.  And I liked them.  Mostly.
  • On Thursdays I worked the floor, and my good friend Resh would bartend.  I adore Resh.  We closed the bar together for at least half the shifts that I worked, and he always made me giggle, made me think, or made me feel better when I would get glum…which was often, being the basket case that I am.  Resh saw me through many (MANY) broken bottles, broken hearts, and broken computers.  I miss that man, and when I think of Thursdays I think of him.  Wouldn’t you have a fondness for Thursdays too?
  • I like live music.  Even when it sucks.

But more importantly, back to pub food.  This is what I like about pub food:

  • It varies between delicious and horrifyingly awful, and I do enjoy rolling the dice.
  • It’s deep fried.  I never deep fry, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to eat it when the opportunity presents itself…
  • The plates are cheap.
  • Your food arrives within 15 minutes of ordering….unless the cook is outside hacking a butt, and then it’s closer to 2o.

Firecracker shrimp is typical modern pub food in that it’s a little bit fusion, a little bit main-stream, and a whole lotta deep fried.  Sweet chili sauce in a pub comes in a 20 gallon container, gurgling out in a gelatinous lump.  That’s not my style.  The shrimp are simply wrapped in a wonton shell and deep fried.  That’s also not my style.  When Mike and I do Firecracker Shrimp, we want flavor.  We like a shrimp that stands on it’s own, even if there’s no dip in sight.  And….we like it baked.  Because I’m fat, and as a chubber I always think twice before walking within 10 feet of a deep fryer. But maybe that’s just me.

Firecracker Shrimp with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Makes approximately 30, or 5 appetizer servings….2 -3 dinners…..

Firecracker Shrimp:

  • 550 g large shrimp (21/25), which is about 28-32 pieces *
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1″ length of peeled ginger root
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil + 1 tsp sesame oil (for Filo, optional)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce **
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chili oil (optional, or use 1 extra tbsp olive oil)
  • 8 sheets Filo pastry

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 long red chili pepper ***
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2/3 ” ginger root
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce **
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

* You can use larger shrimp, you can use smaller shrimp….but try not to use shrimp that are TOO much smaller, or they’ll look rather silly when you wrap them.  If you use shrimp that are significantly larger, adjust the cooking time accordingly. Also, because seafood is expensive, I buy raw and un-peeled frozen shrimp….from the Asian market, because it’s cheap.  If I go to my local grocery store the price is twice as much for a similar quality, and frankly I’m happier to spend $4 on shrimp instead of $9.99 (Goddamn you Galen Weston!  But I do love your Blue Menu goods, so don’t take my damnation to heart). 

** If you don’t have Sriracha chili sauce, you could substitute with 3 tbsp of Sambal Oelek, or 3 tbsp of Chinese Garlic Chili Sauce and reduce the garlic cloves by 1.

*** Oh boy, the pepper.  You want a relatively long and thin pepper of medium-hot heat.  You could use 1 Thai bird’s eye pepper (which is much smaller but much hotter), 1 cayenne pepper (about the same size and heat) or a Chinese red finger pepper.  Or whatever you like.  I’m not the pepper police.


Start by preparing the marinade for the shrimp.  In a smallish bowl you can grate or press the 3 peeled garlic cloves.  Peel the ginger and use a rasp or grater  to make fine work of that as well.  Add the sesame, soy, sriracha chili sauce and fish sauce.  Give it a stir to make sure that everything is combined. 


Now then, let us talk shrimp.  If you have un-peeled shrimp, remove the shell but be sure to leave the end and tail intact…if only because it makes for a prettier presentation.

When shrimp cooks, it curls up.  This is normal.  However, we want to try to inhibit at least a bit of the curling-o-shrimp.  Traditional Firecracker Shrimp are deep fried, and the sudden heat often shocks the shrimp so that it keeps the shape it had when rolled.  But when you bake the shrimp?  Not so much.  To try to keep the shrimp as flat as possible, take a sharp knife and gently score the inside curve of the shrimp 3-4 times.  Be careful not to cut all the way through, but scoring the flesh allows you to unfurl the curve enough to rest it flat when the time comes.


Put the prepped shrimp into a glass (or non-reactive) shallow baking pan, and toss it with the marinade so that each piece is coated.  Let the shrimp stew in the marinade for 20-30 minutes.


In the mean time, let’s get started on the Sweet Chili Sauce!  Peel the ginger and cut it into relatively thin discs.  Peel and chop the garlic clove into a few pieces as well, and put these into a small blender or mini food processor.  Slice the top off the chili and cut it into 1/2″ pieces.  If you’re using a spicy Thai bird’s eye chili, you may want to take the seeds out first.  If you have a cayenne or red finger pepper, you can leave the seeds in.  Add all of the sauce ingredients into the mixer.


Pulse the mixture 15-20 times, or until it is mostly combined with just a few chunks of chili left – enough that you can recognize this as a chili sauce,but most of the sauce will be pureed.


The shrimp is still marinating, right?  Good.  In a small bowl measure out the olive oil and add the sesame oil and chili oil, if you’re using them.  Give it a quick stir together.


Lay 1 sheet of filo pastry down on your work surface.  Use a pastry brush to dab this all over with the oil, and then brush the sheet to make sure that the oil is evenly distributed.  Lay another sheet of filo on top, and repeat the daubing/brushing.

Cut the filo in half lengthwise and widthwise to make 4 rectangles.  Cut each rectangle on a diagonal to make 8 triangles.

Before we move on, can we talk quickly about filo?  If you’re not used to using filo, it can seem a bit daunting at first – but don’t be afraid!  There are just several things that you need to remember:


  • Buy your filo from a store where there is a lot of turn over.  If your filo is dry, cracked or broken then you won’t have great results, no matter how careful you are.
  • Only uncover the filo that you need.  The rest of the filo should be laid flat and covered with a moist dish towel to keep if from drying out.
  • Work quickly.  Really.  That’s just prudent advice.



Place one triangle of filo in front of you, with the point facing down.  You will see that there is a short and a long side to the triangle.  Lift one shrimp out of the marinade and shake it off thoroughly to remove as much of the liquid as you can. You may even want to pat the shrimp dry, because if there’s too much marinade left on the shrimp when you roll it then the filo will get soggy.  That’s bad.  Nobody likes soggy filo.

Lay the shrimp flat on the short end of the triangle, about 1/2 inch up from the edge and with the tail sticking out.


Fold the short side over the shrimp and press it down to secure.


Fold the point of the triangle up and press it evenly all the way across.


Roll the shrimp up so that it is secured in a delightful little filo parcel.


Place the filo wrapped shrimp onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper if you will be cooking them immediately.  If you’re freezing the shrimp, make sure that they are evenly spaced and not touching before they get tucked into the freezer.


Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Place your baking sheet , of shrimp lying on parchment paper, onto the center rack of your oven.  Let these cook for 8 minutes until they’re just starting to get gently colored.  Flip each piece over and let it continue cooking for another 5 minutes until the parcels are golden brown and fragrant.

If you are cooking the shrimp from frozen, allow them 10 minutes in the oven before you flip them, and then another 5-7 depending on how fast they’re starting to brown.

Serve the Firecracker Shrimp with the Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce on the side.


Ah, pub treats.  BAKED pub treats.  What lovely little gems you are.


The sauce is sweet, hot, pungent, garlicky, and all things good.


So enjoy a lightened up pub favorite from the comfort of your arm chair!  Oh yeah, and if you’re having a party, I strongly recommend that you double or triple the amount….they go.  FAST.


Oh!  And very important things!  Somebody LIKED US!!  Really, they liked our blog!!!  I may be a silly and emotional fool, but I get absolutely delighted when somebody so much as shrugs and says, “Meh, you’re okay I suppose.”  So imagine our delight to see that we were listed as #12 in the top 100 blogs for the frugal gourmet, as published by  the good people down at Culinary School Guide.  Check out the link, we’re in some very good company for bloggers who love to cook, feed and eat….but have to do it on a shoestring budget.  Thanks again, CSG!!

  • Alison

    Yippee yay! Congrats on the list-making! I knew you’d achieve fame and acclaim very soon! Before you know it, you’ll have your own cable cooking show, and special guest stars! Very exciting news. To continue (in a not-so foodie vein) can you believe that the only edamame I’ve been able to find after scouring the city was some PC organic pre-shelled stuff? Grrr! Reading about your cheap shrimp from the Asian grocers reminded me of that sad fact. The next time we come to visit, I’m bringing my parents’ big cooler, and loading it up with all different sorts of frozen goodies.

  • Kristie

    OMG congratulations!! I have dreams of being “discovered” one day… Anyway, I’m intrigued by your sweet chili sauce. I didn’t even know you COULD make it. I just figured it was voodoo magic I had to buy at the Asian store. You may just have brought me the key to egg roll happiness.

  • April

    I have some frozen bay scallops I’m trying to use up (it was a not-to-be-repeated experiment). I wonder if I could use the marinade on them, pan sear them (or something?) and then serve them with the dipping sauce? Does that sound like it would be good?

  • noble pig

    Oh it sounds exciting and zippy! Wish I was at the pub too!

  • Tina

    Alison – I feel the same way when I read blogs from people in the US who have access to so many different types of peppers, herbs like epazote, etc. And yes, shopping. Any time 🙂

    Kristie – I’d say that you’ve been discovered by the many people who adore your blog and read/comment on it religiously. Also, I kind of want to break into your kitchen some day and case the joint, just to be prepared in case you ever have a garage sale. For serious. If you wanted to make sweet chili sauce that was more like what you buy in the store, you likely want to simmer it with cornstarch to get that thicker consistency.

    April – The marinade would be excellent with scallops, but I don’t think you’d need the dipping sauce. Just add a bit of sugar/honey/mirin to the marinade and I bet that would be delicious…ooh, what if you were to reduce the liquid and them simmer the scallops in them to cook? So it’s like a marinade/sauce? I bet that would be lovely served on a bed of rice…..

    Noble Pig – I spend most days thinking, “I wish I was at a pub right now….any pub….anywhere…” But hey, you have a WINERY. Wineries trump pubs, hands down.

  • Carolyn Jung

    I know you call this pub food, but can I just say that I think this would be killer with a nice glass of Riesling, too? Mmmmm! I’ll drink to that. 😉

  • April

    Thanks, Tina! I’ll try that this weekend. I might make the dipping sauce anyway because it sounds so delicious!

  • Kulsum


    I made this today. Turned out great. It was almost like inaugurating dish for my new oven. Had to be good, else you would have got in trouble 😀 But there was one thing, my filo was in the freezer for more than months, I did have a hard time with it but then I do even when its fresh. There was slightly ( very very slight ) raw flour taste to it, atleast with few pieces ( I was the only one who even noticed it, no one else did, I do have a sharp tongue ) , But I think its something with the filo ? or was it me ? . It was cooked all the way through.

  • Kulsum

    oh yes, the dipping sauce was awesome !!

  • Tina

    Kulsum – I’m delighted that you tried this recipe!! You know how tickled I always am when you make any of our comestibles, and particularly when you let me know what you think – good or bad 😉

    Hmmm – so the filo had a raw flour taste. You’re right that it would have that taste if it wasn’t fully cooked through, but if it was then I’m not sure. I don’t think it would have to do with the age of the dough, though. Aged filo just tends to be drier and doesn’t hold up as well to manipulation. Do you think that the shrimp were too moist? Because that could make it gummy on the inside, and I imagine that the gumminess would taste floury. So…..I actually didn’t help at all, did I? Huh. I’ll keep thinking on that one!

  • Lemoncello

    I love the level of detail and step by step pictures. I also like how your write. its very much like Nigella who writes how she speaks