The inspiration for this recipe came from my regular strolls through the Isemarkt, Europe’s largest outdoor market. It’s one of my favorite farmer’s market and lucky for me, is located just down the road from where I live. Not only is this gourmet market a feast for the eyes, but it’s in a charming location and spreads 1 km under the metro rail making it very handy for rainy days.
One of the highlights of this market and of living in Hamburg is the abundance of seafood. Northern Germans love their fish. Not only herring — they also love the popular coastal icon, North Sea shrimps. A traditional highlight of the North Sea coast is a sleepy little fishing village called Büsum which is primarily known for its local specialty, Büsumer Krabben. What passes for “crabs” when translated, are actually little, crispy, juicy and frankly spectacular tasting shrimps. They may be small but they pack a lot of flavor. Not to be confused with regular shrimps, these north sea shrimps, being sand shrimps, are indeed smaller, darker in color and have a distinctive flavor.
Büsumer Krabben can be found at any of the five or so Isemarkt fish vendors (this market has 200 or so vendors selling what they have to offer, whether it be flowers, herbs, spices, international delicacies, cured meats, cheese or chocolate) and many of the fish trucks sell their version of a North Sea Shrimp Salad (Büsumer Krabbensalat).
I’m always impressed by one truck in particular, it’s brimming with fresh Büsumer Krabben, the peel at home kind and seems to have a never ending line up of eager shrimp-peelers. Because these little beasts are so small, peeling is difficult and requires a lot of hand work. In this video you can see how tedious it really can be.
Okay, with a little practice it’s pretty easy. Clearly patience is not my strongest virtue so I like to buy mine already peeled. There’s a reason there are shrimp-peeling competitions in this country – gotta keep the interest alive! Otherwise, the shrimps tend to get sent to Morocco, for someone else to take care of the fiddly business, only to send them by the truck load back to us.
Always delicious, this is a super simple and quick recipe that can be pulled together in less than ten minutes. It’s terrific served with a toasted baguette or for avocado lovers as a scrumptious filling and works brilliantly as either an appetizer or a light lunch. Enjoy!
North Sea Shrimp Salad (Büsumer Krabbensalat)
- 300 g peeled North Sea shrimps (Büsumer Krabben), also known as brown shrimps
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 6-8 radishes, depending on size, finely chopped
- 1/4 english cucumber, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- juice from one large organic lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- additional lemon for serving (optional)
In a medium bowl, toss together the shrimp, onion, radishes, cucumber and dill. Then add the olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Enjoy!
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