Sriracha Shrimp Skewers

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

We love having friends over for food and drinks and merriment, so a summer barbecue for Independence Day was inevitable. As we planned out our spread, we knew we wanted to serve up our copycat Father’s Office burgers, zesty tequila-lime chicken (recipe to come), and shrimp. Hm. Shrimp. Our brains were riddled with question marks as to the marinade and the idea of “Oh, butter, lemon, and herbs will be fine… it’s a classic combination!” relentlessly gripped my train of thought. But with our other two fancified proteins on the menu, we wanted the shrimp to stand out too. Cue, sriracha.

Sriracha Shrimp

Sriracha Marinated Shrimp

Sriracha. An Asian bottled hot sauce made popular here in the States by David Tran of Huy Fong Foods, sriracha has been a critical household ingredient in my family since before I was born. My parents always had a bottle sitting in the refrigerator, always the Huy Fong one with the rooster and the iconic green cap. Known in Vietnamese as tương ớt (or “pepper sauce”), I only ate sriracha with pho and occasionally to spice up other Asian dishes like fried rice or non-pho noodle soups. It wasn’t until I moved to LA for college that I even saw a bottle of sriracha anywhere other than an Asian restaurant. In fact, it was EVERYWHERE – the dining halls, the Mexican taco trucks, the “international” section of Ralphs. All of my friends, regardless of their ethnicity, slathered sriracha over everything. Have you ever tried sriracha in lieu of ketchup for dipping French fries? IT ROCKS.

The iconic plastic bottle with the rooster and green cap (accept no substitutes!)

The iconic plastic bottle with the rooster and green cap (accept no substitutes!)

Huy Fong Foods sells out of every batch they produce and recently expanded their facilities from Rosemead (near where Martin grew up and would smell the scent of brewing peppers wafting through the neighboring streets) to a 23-acre factory in Irwindale… it warms my heart to see the success of a company with such humble beginnings (the family immigrated during the Vietnam War, just as my parents had). There’s even a sriracha documentary coming out soon; I’m expecting a Jiro Dreams of Sushi of the hot sauce world.

These little morsels quickly disappeared...

These little morsels quickly disappeared…

But back to the barbecue. Fortunately, our friends at Foodbeast resurrected this awesome recipe from Helen at Food52, and we found it on our Facebook news feed not a moment too soon. It was a huge hit at the party and definitely a keeper for future cookouts.



1/3 cup sriracha (we added 1 tablespoon extra for more kick)

1/3 cup olive oil (we reduced by 1 tablespoon)

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

4-5 crushed cloves of garlic (we added a few more cloves)

1 teaspoon sugar

Small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

Salt & pepper

2 pounds large shrimp (21-25 or larger), cleaned, peeled, & deveined

(adapted from Food52)

The Marinade - At the Beginning

The Marinade – At the Beginning

In small bowl (or measuring cup – I like to minimize dirty dishes), whisk together the first six ingredients, making sure to bruise the garlic pieces as you mix. Let the marinade mixture sit while you work on the shrimp.

The Shrimp

The Shrimp

Clean the veins from the shrimp and peel them under cold water. Tails on or off – that’s up to you. I preferred them tail-off for ease of devouring these morsels whole.

Seasoned Shrimp

Seasoned Shrimp

Transfer the shrimp to a medium glass bowl. Season generously with kosher salt (or garlic salt) and fresh cracked black pepper.

Look at the stunning marinade!

Look at the stunning marinade!

Pour the marinade over (scrape every last drop!) and mix well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The marinade (i.e. the flavor) clings well to the shrimp when it comes time to grilling, so it’s OK if you don’t quite have 2 hours to spare.

You could almost hear the shrimp soaking in all that flavor!

You could almost hear the shrimp soaking in all that flavor!

About an hour before grill time, soak some bamboo skewers in water; this keeps them from burning to a crisp over the hot coals. I set out a baking sheet on a counter I wasn’t using, spread out the skewers in a single layer, and then poured cold water over them.

Skewering Time!

Skewering Time!

When it’s time, set up the grill and get it all nice and hot. Meanwhile, thread the shrimp on the soaked skewers. We have a small grilling surface, so I did 4 per skewer. You may want to wear food-safe gloves… I didn’t and my slightly burning fingertips immediately regretted that decision.

Shrimp on the Barbie

Shrimp on the Barbie

Shrimp are an excellent party food since they cook so quickly. Just 2-3 minutes per side on a hot grill and they will be perfectly opaque and juicy. Serve them up and wait for the satisfying “yums” followed by the telltale “sss” as your guests’ varying levels of tolerance for spiciness are put to the test.

We started with this...

I managed to snap a few pics before they were all claimed and devoured

There are plenty of hot sauce marinated shrimp recipes out there, and even ones that also feature the beloved sriracha, but many only call for mere tablespoons of the stuff for the same quantity of shrimp. It’s no surprise then that Helen of Food52 was awarded “Best Shrimp Recipe” for this stellar recipe that dares to really pack a punch. Give it a whirl for your next summer barbecue – it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser! (And if you liked this recipe, check out her grilled lamb, also a winner on Food52.)

Ennar Calasian Grill – Fountain Valley, CA

Food Adventures, Orange County

My parents don’t claim to be foodies, but I’m convinced they are because they always seem to catch wind of new restaurants opening up in Orange County. A few months ago, it just so happened that a family friend opened up a Vietnamese-Japanese fusion yakitori place and my parents came to visit within weeks of their opening. Having enjoyed their visit, they invited us to check it out this happenin’ hot spot – Ennar Calasian Grill – for Happy Hour. (Yes, it’s an interesting experience going out for HH with one’s parents, in case anyone was wondering…)

Ennar Calasian Grill – Fountain Valley, CA

To them, Happy Hour isn’t about cheap drinks (although we did start with a round of discounted Sapporo) — it’s about cheap food! The HH menu at Ennar is full of assorted yakitori-style skewers and izakaya-like starters. I’ll be honest, I was caught a little off-guard trying to order yakitori with a menu that only had English and Vietnamese on it (like asking for lưỡi when I would usually order gyutan). We spotted a few items that seemed a little out of place (roma tomato bruschetta?)  so we steered clear of those. Still, we ordered a good variety of what the menu had to offer so without further ado, we present everyone’s favorite part… the food.

I love checklists!

Cabbage Salad

Crispy cabbage and julienne strips of carrot tossed in a sesame vinaigrette, this was a great refreshing starter for a meal of grilled meat and fried foods.

Squid tentacles (râu mực) x 4

Tender and flavorful, the squid tentacles charred nicely on the grill, making these the perfect morsels to accompany a cold glass of beer. A must-have skewer when my dad goes out for yakitori!

Edamame with Garlic Sauce

Edamame appetizers are pretty standard in these types of restaurants, but Ennar makes theirs a little extra special by tossing them in a garlicky sauce and sprinkling with sesame seeds before serving. The sauce was tasty but a bit oily. It reminded me of eating flavored roasted sunflower seeds, where all the flavor is on the shell so you end up sucking on those before extracting the bland seeds in the middle…

Crispy Rice with Pork Belly

This was probably the best example of Japanese & Vietnamese fusion at work – a thin yakionigiri-like patty topped with a saucy pork belly that had the flavor profile of mom’s homemade thit kho.

Okra (not the bacon-wrapped kind)

I know, I know… bacon makes everything better. But I love plain ol’ grilled okra so I couldn’t resist. Grilling is a great way to prepare okra to minimize its sliminess, and this crispy green offers a welcomed break from all of the meats.

Gyutan (beef tongue, or luoi)

Mmm this is my must-have when going out for yakitori, yakiniku, really any place that offers it on the menu (I will also order lengua when given the opportunity). The gyutan here was a great texture – not too tender, not too chewy.

Pork belly, pork cheek, and bacon-wrapped quail eggs

I remember a conversation I once had with foodie friend Irene about food “buzz words” that automatically entice us to order items off any given menu. One of those buzz words is definitely pork belly. Seriously, who could resist that? The pork belly here was not as charred or caramelized as I would like, but each morsel melted like butter. The pork cheek was a bit fatty but a great cut of meat. We did get the uzura (quail eggs, trứng cút), Martin’s favorite, wrapped in bacon… and yes, bacon did make it better although the pork fat was a little too rich when paired with the boiled egg yolk.

Octopus Salad

I saw that the octopus salad got mixed reviews from diners on Yelp, but the owners of Ennar said that this was one of their signature menu items so we had to try it. I enjoyed the octopus, which (I believe) was parboiled and still a bit chewy. The salad had a light vinaigrette that complemented the octopus well.

Chicken Hearts

There is no shortage of offal when it comes to yakitori. The chicken hearts here are tender, perfectly charred, and served hot off the grill. Definitely try this one!


This was actually my first time having gizzard. It’s not that commonly found in the yakitori places in LA (and if you’ve tracked it down, please let me know where I can get me some!), but my dad spotted it on this menu and had to have it. The flavor was similar to the chicken hearts, but the texture is a bit chewier (in a good way).

Fried Tofu

Crispy on the outside, silky on the inside, and dusted with togarashi — this one’s a winner!

Lamb Chops

I enjoyed these chops, which were cooked perfectly to temperature (we ordered 3 rare and 1 medium) and coated in a fragrant herb marinade. They were served with a mustard sauce but I didn’t think the gamey lamb needed any condiments.

Tempura Soft Shell Crab

Martin and I agree that this was our favorite dish of the evening. The crab was succulent and perfectly fried with a light, crispy coating of the tempura batter.

Oyster Mushrooms

Mushrooms are so wonderful when they’re grilled, especially when you have hearty, flavorful ones like these hiratake or even shiitake.

Beef Tenderloin

Can’t go wrong with grilled tender cubes of filet, especially when they’re cooked perfectly to temperature!

Bacon-wrapped Enoki Mushrooms

This too came highly recommended by the owners, and I was very curious to see how such a stringy mushroom could be put on the grill. These smoky, juicy, decadent bacon-wrapped bundles were delicious!

Grilled Shrimp

These were pretty awesome. Salty, succulent prawns served whole.. just twist off the heads, suck out the juices, and peel & eat. So good!

Salt & Pepper Grilled Rice Ball (yakionigiri)

Yakitori isn’t just about meat… Martin and I love our carbs so we always look forward to some crispy charred yakionigiri. The rice at Ennar is seasoned with salt and black pepper, so much so that it has a bit of a spicy kick. Very nicely done.

Grilled Half Quail

Quails are small, bony birds but Ennar serves their quail more or less boneless (of course, they leave the fun parts like the wing and “drumstick”). The only thing that would have made it better is if the skin were crispier but isn’t that golden brown skin just gorgeous?

Baked Mussels topped with Caviar

I’m not the biggest fan of cheesy baked mussels, but these are hot and fresh and when they were placed on our table, the wafting aroma tempted me to dive right in. The green onion garnish (and the cheese) overpowered the caviar, but the overall flavor was good. It was definitely the most attractively plated dish of the evening and a nice way to end the meal.

The chefs at work

I love the open kitchen with the transparent panels to let visitors see the goings-on in the back of the house. The food was prepared well; my only gripe is that everything (and I mean everything!) was covered in togarashi. When I inquired about it, I was told that these “red sprinklers” are their signature touch. I still found it a bit unusual until I revisited another yakitori favorite and realized that they too have togarashi but set out little shakers for patrons to help themselves. Personally, I prefer having the option to take it or leave it. The togarashi was good on the first few skewers but then the flavor just got redundant and overpowered the natural goodness of the grilled meat. That could be just me.

All in all, the meal was very enjoyable as a “California” (and Vietnamese-fusion) rendition of yakitori. They don’t claim to be authentically Japanese and that’s perfectly OK. The staff was friendly and Ennar really seems like an up and coming hangout, especially during their Happy Hour! If you’re in the OC, be sure to stop by, grab an ice cold beer, and check out a skewer or two or three. They are situated in the far corner of a strip mall, so if you blink, you just might miss them. Just look for the bright neon script adjacent to the Saigon Performing Arts Center.


Check out Ennar Calasian Grill:

16161 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

See their Yelp reviews here!

PS: They’re closed on Tuesdays.