This is a quintessential tapas dish. As far as I am concerned, any good tapas dish can be a good Izakaya food. Many years ago, our Spanish friend served this to us at a small party held in his backyard. Since then, this “gambas” became our favorite and quick snack accompanying a drink. I think the way I make this dish is based on the recipe in my old tapas cook book with my slight modification (of course).
Shrimp: For this dish, relatively small shrimp (20-25 count/lb) works best. Since the vast majority of shrimp we buy here are previously frozen and thawed at the store (they say “for your convenience” but sometimes they are sitting in a case for several days after thawing), I rather buy frozen raw shrimp and thaw it myself. For quick thawing, I use running tap water. Some say the flavour will be lost in the running water but it is quick and convenient for me. Sprinkling salt on the shrimp after thawing appears to bring back some briny flavours of the ocean. This one is peeled and deveined except for the tail segment. I dry them on a paper towel.
I use a small flat Pyrex pan as seen above but any small flat pan will also work. I add 3-4 tbs of good quality olive oil (olive oil is an important part of the dish and we dip the bread to soak it all up). I thinly slice garlic (2-3 fat cloves) rather than finely mincing it. I slowly fry the garlic pieces on a low flame with red pepper flakes (whatever amount you like) until they are fragrant and the garlic slices are slightly browned. “Slowly” is important since the garlic flavour is transferred to the oil better and the garlic slices become crispy (become garlic chips) without imparting a burnt bitter taste. Take the garlic chips out of the pan and put them on a small paper towel lined plate and set aside. I then fry the shrimp in the garlic scented olive oil for 30 seconds on each side or until just done and take it off the heat. I sprinkle chopped parsley, lemon juice on the cooked shrimp and garnish with the garlic chips. You could sprinkle Spanish paprika if you wish (mostly for decoration). I do not add any salt since it was already added after the shrimp thawed.
For this, we need a rustic and crusty bread like good baguette or ciabatta. We happened to have a very nice crusty ciabatta from a local bakery. We opened the last bottle of Vilafonte. It went with the meal very well.