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Eric Akis: Lighten up with shrimp salad lettuce wraps

Shrimp salad, flavoured with curry powder, lime and mango chutney, is served in lettuce leaves, ready to wrap up and devour.
Flavourful, curried shrimp salad is wrapped up to eat in lettuce leaves. ERIC AKIS

If you’re looking for a lighter way to serve something you normally might stuff inside a sandwich or bun, get out some lettuce leaves. They can replace bread products and become a crisp vessel to wrap up all kinds of things, such as curried shrimp salad, what I used.

I made that salad with hand-peeled shrimp, which you’ll find for sale at seafood stores and some supermarkets. These small shrimp are called hand-peeled shrimp because the processor hand peels them after cooking and cooling them, resulting in a product with good texture and a bright pink colour. You can buy hand-peeled shrimp frozen, to thaw and use when needed, and also fresh.

When buying fresh hand-peeled shrimp, look at them and make sure they are bright pink and firm in texture. Fresh hand-peeled should also have a fresh, mild, sea-like aroma. If they look dull and soft in texture and/or have a strong ammonia-like scent, they’ve been around too long and should not be purchased.

Fresh hand-peeled shrimp are quite perishable, so try to buy them the day you’ll use them. But, if they are very fresh, you could store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator for one day.

Whether thawed from frozen or fresh, always gently pat hand-peeled shrimp dry with paper towel before using them. Excess moisture on them can dilute the taste of the salad or other dish you are making with them.

To make my salad, I combined those shrimp with finely diced raw vegetables, mayonnaise, curry powder, mango chutney and lime juice. Not hard to make, but very flavourful.

I wrapped the shrimp salad in B.C. living butter lettuce leaves. That lettuce is called living lettuce, because it’s sold with the roots still attached, in other words, still living. You’ll find it for sale at many supermarkets. If you can’t, in my recipe I’ve also given you the option to use leaf lettuce.

Curried Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Shrimp salad, flavoured with curry powder, lime juice and mango chutney, served in lettuce leaves, ready to wrap up and devour.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: two servings

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp bottled mango chutney (I used Patak’s brand)

2 tsp lime juice

1/2 to 3/4 tsp mild, medium or hot curry powder

250 grams hand-peeled shrimp, patted dry

3 Tbsp finely diced celery

3 Tbsp finely diced red bell pepper

3 Tbsp finely diced green onion

• cilantro sprigs, to taste (optional)

8 roasted unsalted cashews or whole, skin-on almonds, chopped, or to taste

6 to 12 living butter lettuce leaves or small leaf lettuce leaves

Combine mayonnaise, chutney, juice and curry powder in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp, celery, bell pepper and green onion and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate this curried shrimp salad 30 minutes, to allow flavours to meld. It can be made an hour or two before needed.

When ready to serve, arrange the leaves of lettuce, stacking two together, if desired, on a serving board or platter, or on two dinner plates, and spoon some of the shrimp salad into the centre of them. Top the salad with chopped cashews (or almonds) and a cilantro sprig or two, if using, and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.