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Gambas al ajillo

Gambas al ajillo

Gambas al ajillo

The Spanish dish gambas al ajillo – literally: garlic prawns – is a popular choice of tapa and a cuisine classic. Large prawns are fried with chilli and lots of garlic, then sprinkled with parsley as a final flourish.

What is gambas al ajillo?

Gambas al ajillo (pronounced as ‘gam-bas al a-chief-jo’) is a popular tapas classic from Spain. It literally means ‘garlic prawns’, with the name pretty much summing it all up. Large prawns are fried in oil with a hint of chilli and plenty of garlic, before being sprinkled with parsley. 

If there’s a tapas menu on hand, chances are you’ll find gambas al ajillo in it, at least in native Spain. Among Spaniards, the dish is the most popular tapa of all. 

Did you know?

In the south of Spain, the dish is called gambas al pill pill. Key signatures of this southern Spanish include the fact the shrimps are cooked within the tapas dish itself (called cazuela). The ‘pill pill’ part refers to the hissing sound the shrimps make when they are placed atop the table after coming out of the oven.

How to make gambas al ajillo

First you’ll need plenty of garlic, at least three cloves per person, then fry them in oil with chilli flakes. Shrimps are baked until tender, with a dash of brandy or sherry vinegar, a sprinkle of paprika and a pinch of lemon adding another layer of flavour. Add salt, pepper and chopped parsley to finish.

How to eat

Spoon this terrific tapa into terracotta bowls and make sure there’s plenty of fresh bread on hand to mop up that delicious sauce.

Please consider

Do like the Spaniards do and order an enormous portion to satisfy your appetite. Prefer more variety to your meal? Opt for prawns with a selection of other tapas to complement. 

Also try

In Canada, tapas is not consumed, but dumplings are deployed when a big meal with many small elements is required. A real standout is ha kau, a shrimp dumpling. Like your garlic? The Greeks serve a garlic dip called skordalia with similar dishes.

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Gambas al ajillo