Charleston Memories and Creole Shrimp…

I spent the first 24 years of my life by the sea. Winters and summers… springs and falls… all 24 of them! I always went down to the Bosphorus shore when I needed a walk or craved for that salty sea smell. My high school was right on the waterfront, making the strolls during the class breaks a delight. I am one of those people who eats most anything that comes out of the sea.

Then I moved to Clemson, SC, a 4-hour drive from the closest port. In U.S. driving terms, 4 hours is nothing, of course… and I’m lucky I’m not living in a landlocked state. I understand that. But you can not go for a stroll by the shore when you need to. And all these man-made lakes around here in the Carolinas really don’t cut it for me!

So, three months into my life here, I had the craving. I had to smell the sea. I had to see the sea! I know it is weird! But makes me feel home! My good friend Ozlem grew tired of my whining and crying, and decided to take me to Charleston, SC. At the time, I did not care where we went. I needed to go and dig my feet in the sand and feel the breeze! Off we went, two girls driving a rented red convertible, kinda Thelma and Louise style minus the running the car off a cliff part… just leaving our guy friends behind, jealous! …to the city that I did not know I was destined to frequent for the next 11 years!

And from that first trip, I loved Charleston! I loved the old style houses, secluded gardens, big iron garden gates, Palmetto tree-lined streets… I loved that the city is right by the sea… It has history. It has soul! It has neat, little Southern restaurants… I loved the food… to be more accurate, I loved the seafood, whether spicy or fried!

I still do love the city, and any time someone comes to visit me from abroad I take them to Charleston. And this year I went to that city to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Afterwards I celebrated, with my husband and in-laws, at a nice local restaurant called Sermet’s Corner. I dream that one day, I will live in one of those old houses by the sea, sipping my tea in its expansive veranda, on a swing. I would wake up in the mornings and walk down to my secluded garden to see the dew on my plants. Dreams! They keep us going, don’t they? :)

So, on a gloomy, cold day in my home the upstate (far from Charleston, which we refer to here as “Low Country”), I decided to make the Charleston Creole Shrimp recipe reproduced in One Big Table. I need to be reminded of my dreams once in a while, so I don’t lose the big picture… why am I working so hard? What kind of life do I want to lead? Where do I want to be in ten or twenty years?

That is why I make dishes that trigger my dreams and read Coastal Living magazines :-) Gotta keep it alive!

We all know food brings back memories of childhood… but tell me what food feeds your dreams about future?

Creole Shrimp served over Turkish style Pilav (Creole recipe is from One Big Table, you can find the pilav recipe in my first post)

  • 4 tablespoon bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 lbs raw extra jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled, deveined and patted dry
  • 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (finely chopped)
  • 1 green bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Note: When I read this recipe, I had a feeling that this was not going to be spicy enough for me. To suit my taste, I added 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning and 2 tablespoons of paprika, as well as a dash or two crushed red pepper. I strongly recommend the Old Bay seasoning but you can go easy on the crushed pepper if you don’t like the heat. Also, you can make the rice any way you want. I am just accustomed the way I have been cooking rice to make pilav by washing off the starch and sauteing the rice in butter first, then adding chicken stock with 1 to 1.5 ratio (rice to stock).

1. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and saute the shrimp in 2 tablespoon heated oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until they begin to turn pink. Set aside in a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil into the pan, stir the veggies in along with salt and pepper. Stir for 15 minutes or so.

3. Add tomato paste and stir until everything is well-blended. Stir in the diced tomatoes and sugar. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for another 20-30 mins, until the sauce thickens. (Optional: You can add the Old Bay Seasoning and paprika.)

4. Put the shrimp back in the pot, stir, and cook for another a couple of minutes until shrimp is heated.

5. Serve over rice.


  1. by Peggy
    7:38 am
    Dec 11, 2010

    I loved reading your cute story! I’ve never been to Charleston, but I imagine that it’s a beautiful city, just like you’ve pictured it here! This shrimp dish sounds absolutely amazing too!

  2. by Ilke
    6:48 pm
    Dec 11, 2010

    Thanks Peggy… Charleston& Beaufort, SC are worth to see if you are around here! Let me know if life brings you close-by, I will take you as well :)

  3. by Monet
    9:01 am
    Dec 11, 2010

    This shrimp looks AMAZING! I loved seeing the pictures of Charleston to. What a beautiful little town. I want to visit now. I live in Austin, which is about 3-4 hours from the sea too. I would love to live closer to the ocean one day. Thank you so much for sharing with me. I hope you have a beautiful Saturday!

  4. by Ilke
    6:47 pm
    Dec 11, 2010

    Thanks Monet! We want to visit Austin!!! :) We have been talking about going there for the past three years, have not been able to do it. You live in a beautiful city. I heard the music scene is pretty good! And food! Thanks for visiting!

  5. by Kristin @ delishliving
    9:07 am
    Dec 13, 2010

    What a beautiful city! I love everything you said about it – the old homes, the streets, the sea, the history – lovely. The food looks pretty amazing too – great recipe!!
    Loving the new look to your blog!!!

  6. by Ilke
    8:14 pm
    Dec 13, 2010

    Thanks Kristin! Hope you get to visit Charleston sometime, it is a great city. Thanks for taking time and stopping by.

  7. by Rich
    7:52 am
    Dec 15, 2010

    Those photos are amazing – they really are. But the shrimp, wow. I mean, wow. I’ll be making this.

  8. by All That I'm Eating
    9:21 am
    Dec 19, 2010

    I’ve always wanted an authenitc Creole recipe to be able to try it myself. Thanks for sharing!

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