Akath Skampi is a hearty dish that the Herisons love to eat around the fire in the Akath delta. Making this dish is a often family activity, since they are frequently eaten at family gatherings. Usually, mothers and grandmothers cook the dish as they have the most experience handling the delicate Akath Fan Shrimp, while fathers and kids do the gathering. The best tasting skampi is one made from mostly native ingredients, but these families make it at home as well to celebrate the birth of a child or the death of a beloved social member.
PreparationWhile it seems fairly simple to make Akath Skampi, it requires a bit of preparation and a lot of precision.
Catching ShrimpFirst, the fathers together with the children catch Akath Fan Shrimp. To feed a family gathering of 25 people, they need somewhere between 150 and 200 shrimp. Gathering the shrimp is a bonding activity, as the dads teach their children about these little creatures. During this activity, as they exchange life stories, they prepare their kids for life at the same time. Furthermore, the kids get to play with their nieces and nephews, which is always fun. To catch the shrimp safely, the Herisons have created a fish pot. The shrimp can get in and once in, it cannot escape the pot. The dad has the pot ready near the shrimp in the current. The kid strokes over the rocks with a stick, so the shrimps legs have to let go. As they get pulled away by the current, dad catches the shrimp in the fish pot.
Harvesting Wheat, Herbs, and <Riki Leaves>In the meantime, the mothers usually go to harvest wheat and herbs from the garden. The wheat together with the shrimp will be the main ingredients of the dish. The herbs adds an extra but important taste to it. A full basket of wheat is enough to provide the entire family with a substantial meal. When preparing the skampi in the wild, the mums, sometimes with a grandmother, will go out to find wild wheat and herbs for the dish. The native plants always give it a better and unique taste, which is the preferred option. While harvesting wheat and herbs, they also look for <Riki leaves>. These leaves are thick and have the natural ability to absorb toxins, which come in handy when preparing the shrimp. While these leaves are rare, they don't need many fortunately.
Preparing the ShrimpEveryone around the Akath delta knows that the Akath Fan Shrimp are poisenous. Therefore, to eat them, they must be handled with extreme care. The shell contains the toxins which transfers onto skin when touched directly, or transfers into the meat of the shrimp when cooked. Using the <Riki leaves>, grandmother can grab the shrimp safely and give it a good whack on a stone. That cracks the shell of the shrimp, killing it instantly. When the crack is big enough, they can remove the shell entirely and handle the flesh safely. The flesh is put in a bowl with water to prevent the meat from drying out. If a child is old enough, they can help with the slamming part, since they find that the most fun part of the job.
Making the doughThe dough is by far the easiest to prepare. It requires some eggs, flour from the gathered wheat, a bit of oil and salt. Someone then mixes these ingredients thoroughly until a smooth ball of dough is left. That ball is then put in a bowl and rests until it is time to get cooking.
CookingWith all the ingredients at the ready, it is time to start cooking. The men create a campfire for the big pot. First, one of the grandmothers puts on a smaller spot on with a bit of fat. Once that is hot, the shrimp go in for a short moment to cook them until the flesh takes on the same colour as the shell it used to have. That is how the grandmother knows the shrimp are done. In the meantime, two men fill the big pot with water and put it on the fire after the shrimp are cooked to bring it up to a boil. The other mothers use this time to turn the ball of dough into long thin strips. Once the water is boiling, they put all the strips in the pot. These strips sink at first but come floating to the top when they are done. At that point, a few people help out with throwing away the water and leaving the strips inside the pot. At this final stage, two grandmothers put in a big glug of oil, add the shrimp and the fresh herbs for a last small sear to incorporate all the flavours.
The Kiss of DeathWhen Akath skampi is prepared correctly, it is completely harmless and delicious. However, as already known, the Akath Fan Shrimp are highly poisenous. Some people have used that to their advantage to discretely get rid of people. Instead of deshelling the shrimp before cooking, they leave it on for the toxins get absorbed by the meat and remove it after cooking.
While the dish looks virtually the same, the two versions are distinguisable. The shrimp that have the toxins in the flesh will have a faint blue-ish hue throughout the meat, instead of only on the outside. So, when served this dish, always cut a shrimp in half to see the inside to make sure it is safe to eat.