Vanilla is much more than a dessert ingredient in Papantla, a city in the Mexican state of Veracruz once famous for producing the spice. Local artisans braid vanilla’s dark stems, and several restaurants offer a variety of vanilla-infused dishes. Irma Cortés Ramírez, a chef at Nakú, created Shrimp in Vanilla Sauce while experimenting in the Papantla restaurant’s kitchen. As a child in Papantla, she watched as her grandparents added vanilla to atole and to a chayote squash soup. The spice, she said, gives her shrimp dish “a sweet touch, a touch of love.”
Shrimp in Vanilla Sauce
In a blender jar, combine the crema, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, peppercorns, garlic and habanero chile and blend until smooth, taking care not to overblend. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and gently cook until just opaque on the bottom. Flip them using tongs and continue cooking until the other side just starts to turn opaque, about 2 minutes total. Add the mixture from the blender and then add the pulque (or tequila or mezcal, if using), vanilla seeds, vanilla extract, chicken bouillon flavoring and salt. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce thickens enough to densely coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve with steamed vegetables such as squash, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and warm corn tortillas.
Get our Cooking newsletter.
Your roundup of inspiring recipes and kitchen tricks.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.