This Gochugaru Shrimp and Grits Honors Korea and the American South

Make this spicy breakfast dish from Eric Kim's debut cookbook, 'Korean American.'

korean american eric kim gochugaru shrimp and grits gim seaweed
Photo by Jenny Huang
Photo by Jenny Huang

“I think I learned to make grits before rice,” says Eric Kim, New York Times cooking writer and recipe developer. Kim, who grew up in Atlanta, drew inspiration from his Korean identity and childhood experiences in Georgia when writing and recipe developing his debut cookbook, Korean American.

Fiery gochugaru shrimp paired with grits layered with sheets of crushed gim made for a natural coupling—and was one of the first recipes Kim developed for his book. “[This recipe] gave me an anchor for what kinds of food would be in the book.”

The shrimp starts with a marinade similar to the beginnings of maeuntang, a vibrantly red Korean fish stew. The aroma of gochugaru is bloomed in melted butter, with a generous amount of chopped garlic and pungent dashes of fish sauce to tame the heat.

The grits function as foil to the fiery shrimp. Kim was inspired by Korean juk, a rice porridge that he describes as “comfortingly bland.” The addition of crushed seaweed and sesame oil makes for a nuttier and brinier version of grits—the perfect pairing to the intensity of the shrimp. It’s a delicious labor of love held together by the intersecting pieces that make Kim who he is.

Gochugaru Shrimp and Roasted-Seaweed Grits Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

For the grits

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 (5-gram) packets gim, crushed with your hands
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

For the shrimp

  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Fresh cilantro leaves plus tender stems, for garnish

1. Cook the grits: In a medium pot, combine 1¼ cups water, the milk, and grits and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Whisk occasionally and cook until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. The grits should be thick but still loose, meaning they’ll coat the back of a spoon and very slowly drip off. (If they’re too tight and don’t drip in this way, then just add a little more milk.) Add the butter, gim, and sesame oil and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm while you prepare the shrimp.
2. Cook the shrimp: In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, gochugaru, celery seed, sesame oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
3. Set a large skillet over high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pan. When the butter is hot and the foam begins to subside, add the shrimp in a single layer. Let them cook until lightly browned and no longer opaque (you should see them start to pink up where they hit the pan), 1½-2 minutes. Use tongs to turn them over and cook the second side until similarly blushed, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and add the fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Set over low heat and toss together until the butter has melted and coats the shrimp in a shiny orangered sauce, and the shrimp are cooked through, 1-2 minutes.
4. To serve, spoon the grits onto a large platter or into individual bowls, then top with the saucy shrimp. Garnish liberally with the cilantro.

Reprinted from Korean American. Copyright © 2022 Eric Kim. Photographs copyright © 2022 Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.