A Sustainable Shrimp's Tail

By Amelia Schwartz | Antoinette Bruno


Amelia Schwartz
Antoinette Bruno
Malaysian Style Laksa
Malaysian Style Laksa

For his omakase at Mayanoki in Alphabet City, Chef Jeffrey Miller sources mostly local and exclusively sustainable seafood. That means no tuna or skipjack coming from Tokyo. Pacific shrimp are driven in from upstate New York. Eco Shrimp, based out of Newburgh, farms the shrimp in ultra-clean, low-density saltwater tanks, and sells the fresh crustaceans for $17 a pound. 

Miller torches the tails for a sushi course and holds onto the heads and shells to make a shrimp paste for a warming and bright Malaysian-style laksa with Raspberry Point oysters and Point Judith Rhode Island squid. “I had wanted to make a laksa for a long time,” says Miller. “But I can’t use store-bought shrimp paste because of sustainability issues.” 

Miller isn’t trying to recreate a Tokyo-style omakase, so Mayanoki’s menu—like its  sourcing—isn’t traditional. And in his mise-en-place, the nutty, umami-packed shrimp paste is incredibly versatile: “It can go straight into soups, it can go into sauces. Anything that you want to taste like shrimp.” Miller makes about two quarts of the shrimp paste every six weeks and has never seen a batch perish … or go to waste. 

Make Mayanoki’s Shrimp Paste
1. Pack a large pot with your leftover shrimp heads, shells, and some meat for texture. 
2. Add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots, and chiles.
3. Cook the mixture down over high heat, deglazing it repeatedly with a quart of dashi so it doesn’t burn.
4. When the mixture thickens to a caramelized onion-like consistency, deglaze one last time with fish sauce.
5. Blend everything into a smooth paste.

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