Step 1: Buy shrimp. But not just any shrimp - fresh shrimp, sold street-side. A half block length of sidewalk is overtaken by what everyone calls the “Shrimp Ladies”. These women sit under tents hawking freshly caught shrimp, fish, squid and scallops, piled high in ice-packed buckets. Stroll down the line perusing various sizes: pequeño, medio or grande, ocean-caught or farm-raised. Select your shrimp lady based on her shrimp’s quality and appearance… or her demeanor. We chose to buy from a nice young woman instead of the cranky-looking one in my photo. A kilo (2 lbs) of shrimp is more than enough for two people. And at 120 pesos, it’s a steal. (That’s about $6.66 with the 18 peso/dollar exchange rate right about now.)
Step 2: Bag ‘o shrimp in hand…walk across the street to the Botanero where they’ll cook your prize. A typical botanero, we learned, is a “bar with snacks”… and a little more. Often a dive bar atmosphere, the women who work there wear tight clothing and sidle up to lonely men who buy them a drink in return for a flirty chat. Keeps the men in their seats buying more alcohol - amazing how that concept works so well around the world!
Step 3: Choose between boiled, breaded, garlic or spicy diablo style. We choose half garlic / half breaded. The waitress takes our shrimp back to the kitchen where they clean and prepare it, right then, for 60 pesos. (a mere $3.33)
Step 4: Wait. Drink a bucket of Pacificos and chat for an hour while they cook each bag ‘o shrimp to order (takes a while with all of us). If you drink enough cervezas in a botanero you may be offered some free appetizers of ceviche or tiny tacos.
Step 5: Dig in! Of course we were the last of the bunch to get our shrimp off the grill - the slowest eater always gets her food last. But, the wait is worth it. You just can’t beat a fresh shrimp dinner for two for $10! In a word…shrimptastic!