Simmered shrimp cooked in dashi soy sauce and soaked overnight, this beautiful dish adds bright color and delicious flavor to your Osechi Ryori.
Why Japanese Eat Simmered Shrimp for The New Year
Shrimp with bright vermilion color brings beauty into the Japanese New Year feast, Osechi Ryori. This shrimp is always served with head and shell on for the “grand” look on the table.
The reason why shrimp is used in Osechi Ryori is not just because of its beautiful looks, but it also signifies old people because shrimp has a mustache (We call “hige” (mustache in Japanese) but they are actually antennae) and is hunchbacked. So eating shrimp is believed to impart a long life symbolizing a long beard and bent back.
3 Tips to Make Successful Simmered Shrimp
1. Devein the Shrimp with Shell and Head-on
Devein the back of shrimp with a skewer. The vein runs right along the back. Insert the tip of the skewer sideways about ½ inch down from the head of the shrimp, and pull the skewer tip up towards you.
This will lift up the vein and you can pull off the vein with the skewer or with your fingers. If the vein is broken, then insert again a bit lower towards the tail. If you can’t find the vein, then don’t worry about it.
2. Do Not Overcook Simmered Shrimp
Overcooked shrimp is not delicious and will end up dry and tough. It’s important to cook the shrimp just right. For the standard black tiger shrimp, you only need to cook them for 4 minutes, unless it’s much smaller or larger than the typical size. So keep in mind that you will only need to cook between 3.5 to 5 minutes for the shrimp.
Make sure to place all the shrimp in the pot around the same time, so all of them finish cooking at the same time as well. If you spend too much time lining up shrimp in the saucepan, the first shrimp might be overcooked or the last shrimp is undercooked (depends on when you start timing).
3. Strain/Filter the Cooking Liquid for Simmered Shrimp
If you are not a coffee drinker, you may not keep a coffee filter around. But if you do, I highly recommend using a coffee filter or paper towel to filter the cooking liquid when you strain it.
The cooking liquid contains fats and protein from the shrimp (despite the meticulous skimming while cooking). As you will be soaking the shrimp in the cooking liquid overnight, the well-filtered clean cooking liquid will help the shrimp look beautiful as a final result.
- Gather all the ingredients. You can start prepping on the 30th or 31st for Osechi (New Year's feast).
- With shell/head-on, devein the shrimp (please follow step 2 in this tutorial) and quickly rinse under cold running water. Cut off the pointy tip of the head and antennas with a pair of kitchen shears (or knife). Cut off the tail at an angle for better presentation (optional).
- In a medium saucepan, combine sake and mirin. Turn on the heat and bring to boil over medium heat and let the alcohol evaporate.
- Add dashi and soy sauce and bring to boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and place the shrimp in the sauce, bending and holding its back with chopsticks or a pair of tongs to create a shape of Hiragana “つ”. Add all the shrimp to cook at the same time so the cooking time will be similar.
- Simmer for 4-5 minutes, skimming while cooking on low heat.
- Once it’s cooked, immediately transfer the shrimp to a container, saving the cooking liquid.
- Strain the cooking liquid, preferably over coffee filter or super fine mesh strainer, to remove the unwanted protein and fat (the final shrimp will look cleaner and prettier). Discard the filter and let the cooking liquid cool.
- Once the cooking liquid is cool, pour over the shrimp. Do not pour the hot cooking liquid on to the shrimp, this will overcook the shrimp. Cover and soak for 4 hours or overnight.
- Serve it at cold or room temperature for Osechi Ryori.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 30, 2016. It’s been republished in December 2021.