Gambas al Pil Pil – Sizzling Spicy Prawns

This is a hugely popular and typically Andalucían tapas dish or starter.  I have tried to find out the origin of the words Pil Pil and some say that it comes from an Arabic word felfel (I don´t speak Arabic so assume it has something to do with spice or chili).  Others say it comes from the sound the prawns make sizzling in the hot oil. I don´t know if either are true – I like both stories, almost as much as I enjoy making and eating Gambas al Pil Pil.

If you can get hold of good prawns (or shrimp) then this is a very easy yet impressive dish to serve to your guests. If you have a terracotta dish to cook them in, well that´s even better as it does add something special to the taste and the prawns stay hot and sizzling for a few minutes as you bring the dish to the table.

Per person for a good tapas serving you will need

  • 100g peeled prawns (defrosted if frozen)
  • 1 dried hot chili and/or half a teaspoon of hot pimentón – this is down to personal taste – crumbled
  • A fat clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • A good pinch of salt

About 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if you are doing a large serving, just use enough oil to half cover the prawns)

Start by putting everything apart from the prawns into a frying pan or terracotta pot. Turn up the heat and cook until the garlic begins to turn brown at the edges.

When you want to serve your dish add the prawns and cook at a lower heat until the prawns are cooked through then turn up the heat until they begin to sizzle.

Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the delicious chili oil. If served in a large pot or pan, it is traditionally served as a sharing dish. Everyone has their own fork and “prongs” their bread into the juices.

Serve with an ice cold beer, a chilled manzanilla or a crisp cool white wine.  ¡Buen provecho!

PS. No fear of me running out of chillis this coming year…the harvest is now safely stored and drying in the shed!

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