A couple weeks ago I finally got the opportunity to try a spicy shrimp taco that I had read about in Saveur over 2 years ago. The article was about a taco eating trip down highway 99 in California with stops mostly in agricultural areas with larger mexican populations. I was busy with school and too far away from the restaurants at the time, but I love Mexican food so the article sat in the back of my mind, added onto the running list of food anecdotes and meal ideas I keep in a dark corner somewhere in there. When I found myself in Fresno recently I somehow unearthed the article from the depths of my subconscious and hopped on Yelp to make sure they were still open.
The tacos. Were. Great. There’s no shortage of delicious tacos in California, and especially not in Fresno, but these stood out as different than what I would usually get. A flour tortilla holds rice, cheese, guacamole and shrimp bathed in a hot sauce. They were so filling I could barely finish my second one, but I wanted more of those shrimp.
For my own adaptation I kept the best parts of the taco and ditched the rice and cheese. These shrimp nacho bites are crunchy and loaded with freshly made guacamole and shrimp. Avocados and shrimp can be what I call “quiet” flavors in their plain state, but with so many other fresh flavors and spices, the end product is super flavorful and the perfect combination of crunchy, creamy, fresh and spicy.
- 3 6” corn tortillas or 12 thick tortilla chips
- 12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 t. garlic powder
- ¼ t. smoked paprika
- ¼ t. cayenne pepper
- ⅛ red onion
- 2 avocados
- ½ serrano pepper
- 2 T chopped cilantro
- 2-3 limes
- 2 ½ t. kosher salt, divided
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- Vegetable oil
- Begin heating ½” of vegetable or other neutral tasting oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Stack your tortillas and cut them into quarters. Check the heat by dipping a corner of the tortilla into the oil and if it begins bubbling rapidly the oil is ready. Add as many of the chips as can fit in the pan without any of them overlapping and cook, flipping occasionally until golden brown and bubbling has nearly subsided. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle immediately with salt. Continue to cook the rest of the chips in the same manner. If making ahead, allow to completely cool and then store in an airtight container.
- Chop the shrimp into bite sized pieces and combine in a bowl with the garlic, paprika, cayenne, 2 t. salt, and 1 t. oil. Slice the red onion thinly lengthwise and set aside. Cut 1 lime into wedges.
- Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork, adding ½ t. kosher salt. Dice the serrano pepper and add to the avocado along with the cilantro and the juice of 1 lime. Continue to mash the guacamole to the consistency you prefer, then taste to see if it needs more salt or lime juice and adjust as needed.
- Heat 2 T. vegetable oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the shrimp in a single layer. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp has just turned pink. Remove from heat and begin assembling nachos. Add a dollop of guacamole on top of each chip, followed by a spoonful of shrimp a few slices of red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Garnish with an extra squeeze of lime juice from the wedges you cut earlier.
- While you can make some components of this dish ahead of time, they must be assembled right before serving to avoid sogginess. If you're making these for a party and want to make as much ahead of time as possible, I would suggest making the chips and chopping and marinating the shrimp 1-2 days ahead of time. The guacamole can be made in the morning and stored in a bowl in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed directly on top so that it doesn't have contact with any air.