Weekend Cooking: Gambas al Ajillo
05 Mar 2017

Weekend Cooking: Gambas al Ajillo

05 Mar 2017

During one of our trips to Bali, one of the restaurants at the place we stayed in served very nice tapas.  That was the first time we tried Gambas al Ajillo, large succulent shrimp cooked with oil, garlic, and chili flakes.  The oil was so well infused with flavor that we soaked it all up with crusty chunks of bread, long after the shrimp was cleared off our plates.  Definitely a memorable dish.

I found some nice extra large shrimp at Tesco, so I decided to try making the dish myself.  This recipe by Serious Eats seems to take the dish very seriously, taking the time to infuse the oil using the shrimp shells.  The results were delicious, and we enjoyed it with slices of home-made bread.  This recipe uses a lot less chili flakes than the version we had in Bali, so here I upped the chili flakes a bit more for that extra kick.


Weekend Cooking: Gambas al Ajillo


  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 500 grams large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate soda)
  • 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (daun ketumbar)


Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in large bowl.  Crush 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet.

Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.

Add shrimp to bowl with minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, and baking soda.  Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.

Set the skillet with the crushed garlice cloves over medium-low heat, and add the shrimp shells, the remaining olive oil and red chili flakes.  Cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until the shells turn deep red, the garlic is golden, and oil is aromatic, about 10 minutes.  The oil should be gently bubbling the whole time.  When ready, use a strainer ladle to remove the shells and garlic from the skillet.  Discard the shells and garlic.

Heat the flavored oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 1 minute.

Add the shrimp and cook, turning and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add the red wine vinegar and cilantro and toss to combine.  Season to taste with salt.

Serve immediately.

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