Back on 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, this was a most popular dish. If you like shrimps and garlic (which Nuyoricans love), this was a favorite. Imagine my amazement, years later, when I discovered that the self-same dish was a traditional tapas plate popular in Spain. There, they call it “Gambas al Ajillo.” Why they call it “gambas,” I have no idea. I do know that it’s a tapas favorite where they include some good bread to soak up the delicious sauce in the dish. In Spanish Harlem, we serve it over rice.

What you have is a traditional garlic shrimp dish which has transcended cultures. In Nuyorican cooking, we also serve this entrée as a sandwich. You put the garlic infused shrimp on a roll or two slices of your favorite bread, and you’re set to go.  I have never seen this done in Spain. Again, it’s a Nuyorican thing. The same way American cooking has transformed Chinese cuisine with such dishes as egg foo young and chop suey, which never existed in China; or Italian coking with pasta primavera, another American invention. Thus, Puerto Ricans a took a tapas dish and put their own mark on it.

(Shrimp with Garlic)

1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
1 chili pepper, split with seed removed, and chopped
1 teaspoon brandy
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2.  Add garlic and saute until brown, about 2 minutes.
  3.  Add shrimp and chili pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook another 2 minutes. Pour in the brandy and cook an additional  2 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.                                                                                 Yield:  4 servings.