Lifestyle May, 2nd 2013 by

Shrimp Cocktail


(Originally published in Diario Sur in Spanish on 23 March 03)
AJ Linn
Surely most people have better things to do, but in between wine tastings and restaurant visits, I have been concentrating lately on shrimps. I just finished a review of the first book in English on the flamenco celebrity, the late Camarón de la Isla. Camarón died pathetically young, which always promotes legends, and although I knew him during my time in Cádiz, I never accompanied him on the guitar. I did accompany other figuras like El Lebrijano, Rancapino, and Chano Lobato during those years when the whole Bay of Cádiz was a flamenco aficionado’s idea of paradise.
Most people interested in the art know that the Venta de Vargas was the centre of this little world. It was where the singers and dancers hung out every night waiting to get hired for private performances. It is also the restaurant where they invented the most typical dish of the region, the tortillita de camarones, or little shrimp omelette, although the omelette in this case is eggless, being made with fried batter.
Owing to the fact that a friend who lives on the cruise ship The World was coming to Cádiz and wanted to eat something that was not available on board, I have also been doing some research in that direction.
What soon became obvious is that, like Camarón de la Isla, who was given the nickname Camarón owing to the fact that one of his uncles thought his complexion was more shrimp-like than gypsy, there is also an air of mystery here.
The most famous Cádiz restaurant, El Faro, has been making the little tortillitas for 70 years, and in the Venta de Vargas the ‘secret’ is to add soda water to the batter. Juan Moreno, of Mesón El Copo in Palmones, only uses chick pea flour and claims to be the first to have added seaweed. In Sanlúcar de Barrameda Casa Balbino has on occasion served a thousand tortillitas de camarones in a day. 

AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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