Simple Things

Food. What does that word make you think of? Rich gravy, smothering juicy turkey breast and mashed potatoes? Poly-unsaturated fats and the state of your arteries? Fresh bread so soft it melts on your lips? Guilt about starving children in Ethiopia? A vague hope that your guests might think “this stir fry is amazing, the cook must be good in bed”? The tangy crunch of a barbecued shrimp in Thai chili sauce or, perhaps, the circumference of your waist? For me, all of the above have applied at one time or another. I’ve decided that, from now on, I’m going to make that relationship with food as simple and pleasurable as I can.

Men fond of white lab coats often speak of a lizard brain, a mammalian brain and a primate brain arranged, like Russian nesting dolls, inside our lovely, top of the line human cerebral cortexes. While I certainly don’t advocate neglecting the higher things of life (look at more more than 100 articles of intellectual wanking on my blog), we should not do so at the expense of our mental reptiles. Perhaps, we should seek experiences pleasing to all the levels. Things like eating, drinking, and breathing. To breathe the crystalline air while hiking the Sierra Nevada mountains, this pleases the lungs with purity and exertion and pleases the mind with quiet, with panorama. When we sample a fine Scotch, we experience both a very basic happy tongue sensation and have cause to distinguish each note, each smell so carefully crafted into our drink.

Partly because I watched Julie and Julia, partly because I subscribed to Milanka’s fine food blog, and partly because my girlfriend wants to learn how to cook, I’ve decided to try and build this full brain happy-gasm into my dinners. To put it slightly differently, I want to go from decent cook to mind-blowingly amazing cook. The shrimp dish below is my first definitely foolhardy attempt to become a great (and almost completely untrained!) cook.


What I served to my girlfriend. I’d gladly take any suggestions you have for this dish’s proper nomenclature.

To make Shrimp WTF, you will need:

8 small, golden potatoes, preferably straight out of the ground

1 carrot

1 broccoli floret

6 jumbo shrimp


Black pepper


A lemon

matsutake mushrooms


Soy sauce


Olive Oil

Ground chili pepper powder, not too spicy

This recipe really has three parts, (a) potato base, (b) mushroom garnish, (c) shrimp and sauce.


Broccoli and potatoes boiling.

The base is very easy to make. Cut the potatoes into pieces about half the size of your thumb, combine with chopped broccoli and boil until they are just starting to get soft. The shrimp is going to be crunchy and you want the base to compliment that crunchiness. After you’ve boiled the potatoes and broccoli, cut them into smaller chunks while stirring in 20-30 grams of butter, fresh, thinly sliced carrot, salt and black pepper. Set this aside and get started on the mushroom garnish.

Start the garnish by cutting 200 g of matsutake mushrooms into slices about 1 cm or 1/2 inch thick. Bathe them in soy sauce, olive oil and ginger flakes. When you’re ready to cook, add enough water to cover the base of your frying pan with 2-3 cm. Stir in raw barley and boil on medium heat until all the water has evaporated off (10-15 minutes). At this point, allow the mushrooms and barley to sear slightly on the pan. You are now ready to attack the shrimp and sauce.

Pan preparation. Note how the shrimp are not touching the surface o the pan.

Pan preparation. Note how the shrimp are not touching the surface o the pan.

First, cut six squares of butter about 1 cm thick and space them evenly across your pan. Cover each slice of butter with a large slice of fresh lemon. Finally, place one shrimp on each of the lemon slices, making sure the shrimp does not touch the pan. By separating the shrimp from the pan, you allow the butter to bubble up through the lemon, slowly cooking the shrimp and impregnating it with both sour and savoury flavors. Garnish the shrimp/butter/lemon with ginger flakes, black pepper and ground chilli pepper. Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Uncover and cook until the butter, garnish and lemon juice has reduced into a rich, red sauce.


Finally, place the potato base on your serving dish. Cover that with the mushroom garnish and top it off with a single shrimp. Cover the entire thing with your lemon sauce and serve. Good for 2-3 people.

Healthy, delicious and not that hard to make.

Healthy, delicious and not that hard to make.

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

Julia Child

If you enjoyed this article, please consider buying the author’s novel.

For customers living in East Asia.



  1. Food? When the word comes to my mind, I tend to think of what I’m going to eat for my next meal, and what are my options and how much it will cost me in terms of the time to make my meal and how much it costs all up. I am frugal that way. Your shrimps look appetising, yummy. Though I’d suggest ease up on the butter…but that’s the tasty part, though.

    In all honestly, I enjoy taking photos of food much more than cooking food 🙂

    1. Yeah, money is always a consideration. Actually, I prepared that meal for my girlfriend and myself for about 17,000 won, or about 15 dollars for both of us. We both had seconds, but I wanted to make at least one pretty picture so the small, first serving is what you see. It doesn’t hurt that I have a farmers’ market right down the street.

      Trust me, this is not a greasy dish. 😉

      1. You know you’ve made a good meal when you have seconds 😉 Not only more than enough to eat, but tasty too most of the time. Who doesn’t like making food look pretty for a pretty picture 😀

  2. It’s not enough for 2-3 people, especially if I’m there. 🙂 Looks like a very succulent dish Ben.
    Julia and Julia is a great film. My mom used to watch Julia Child back in the 60’s and would take notes. My mom and Grandma taught me everything. I do all of the cooking because my wife can burn water.
    Also, think about the cost of that dish if you had ordered it in a restaurant. Cooking at home, and mostly from scratch is a money saver.

    1. Seriously, that’s a 20 dollar dish at a nice restaurant. I really enjoy cooking. Actually, I’ve never been in a relationship with a woman who could cook!

  3. “Shrimp WTF” LOLOL!! Love it! Looks tasty too.

    1. It was super good! Now I just need a better name for it. 😉

      1. Stick with “Shrimp WTF.” That’s bound to be a hit and will garner tons of laughs and much curiosity. 😀

      2. Might have to do that. 🙂

  4. It seems to have an Asian flair (ginger flakes) and a Western flair (potatoes). Why not call it East/West Shrimp or Gamberetti Garrido 🙂

    1. The girlfriend thinks Gamberetti Garrido is a winner, so there it is. Shrimp wtf no more!

      1. When in doubt about naming a new dish…go for an Italian name:-)

      2. Yeah, Korea’s a peninsula, too. 😛

      3. Speaking of funny names, I’ve thought for a long time that if a black guy were to open up a bar or restaurant in the South, he should name it “uppity’s.”

  5. “Perhaps, we should seek experiences pleasing to all the levels.”

    Ben, you are so discriminating in your tastes 🙂

  6. I really like this, B. (And I’m glad to hear a bit about the gfriend. =) ) Though I don’t quite agree w/ the men in white coats, I enjoyed your opening reflections. “I want to go from decent cook to mind-blowingly amazing cook.” You know the Mafia approves of any (legal) ambition. LOL.

    To breathe the crystalline air while hiking.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Always good to hear from you.

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