Coctel de camarones is Spanish for “shrimp cocktail”, but it’s quite different than shrimp cocktail. The English-speaking version of shrimp cocktail generally involves giant shrimp which are dipped into a red cocktail sauce – delicious, but primarily an appetizer. Coctel de camarones, however, is a cold soup filled with vegetables and shrimp, sort of like a Mexican gazpacho with shrimp added. I get it in Mexican restaurants on a regular basis now, and as it’s a seafood dish, it’s often one of the more expensive things on the menu. Albeit, it’s still usually around $10, which is not too bad considering, but as I am both poor and cheap, I decided it was high time I learned how to make it myself.
I followed this recipe to make the coctel de camarones. One reason I liked this recipe is the lack of exact quantities of vegetables to add – if I want to add 3 times as much avocado as a recipe calls for (oh, and I will!), then I’m gonna do it, dang it! Anyhow, here’s the vegetables that I chopped into small pieces:
-three largish Roma tomatoes
-half an onion
-half a large cucumber
-a chunk of cilantro
Incidentally, I believe there is a vegetable conspiracy. There’s this current idea that, if you don’t make much money, you can’t afford to eat well. Or rather, vegetables cost too much for lower-income people to eat. I personally suspect that the cost of vegetables is artificially inflated at most grocery stores, because the grocery stores know people will pay higher prices for vegetables because they are a “health” food. And it’s not just places like Whole Foods – regular grocery stores like Kroger and Safeway seem to fall prey to this as well. Even Walmart has started to seem expensive. This is because I’ve been doing the majority of my fresh grocery shopping at Rancho Liborio, a Hispanic-targeted grocery store. I never pay more then $.50 for an avocado (unlike other grocery stores that will charge upwards of $2 apiece for them), and I never pay more then $1/lb for tomatoes (and even less then that if I just get Roma tomatoes). And the onions, sometimes they’ll be on sale for 5 lb for $1. Fabulous prices! And I think it’s because, though these vegetables are perceived as “health food” by many Americans, they’re necessary ingredients for everyday cooking for Hispanic immigrants. Well, that’s my going theory, at least.
Anyhow, back to the recipe. I boiled 1 lb of shrimp, then in hindsight de-shelled and de-veined them. Is that supposed to be done before or after they’re boiled? I can never remember. Anyhow, once the shrimp were shrimpified, I dumped those on top of the bowl of chopped vegetables, and the squirted the juice of two limes on top of the shrimp.
And next is the interesting part – the ketchup! The soup part of coctel de camarones is ketchup and water (or what I used to call “homeless person soup” back in college). Well, it apparently works quite well with shrimp and vegetables! I started with a half cup of ketchup, and squirted a little bit of Chiracha sauce on as well. Next, I poured some of the leftover shrimp water on top, and stirred everything together. Still not enough liquid, so I alternated between adding more ketchup and more water until the consistency and color matched what I’d eaten in restaurants.
This was a fabulously massive serving of coctel de camarones, and was fabulously delicious. I fed off of it for days, and even on the last day when the cucumbers were starting to get mushy, I still enjoyed every bite. I would totally make this again – it takes a little bit of time to chop up all of the ingredients, but outside of that it’s quite easy to make and worth the effort.