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Filipino Spicy Gambas

Have I told you that I am a BIG fan of shrimps???  Whether it's simply boiled, grilled, or sauteed, and  just plain or with vegetables or pasta, I love it! When I was pregnant with both Clarise & Cherlin, I was eating shrimps all the time! I guess that's why both of them love shrimps too!

One Filipino shrimp dish that I love to cook is the Spicy Gambas. If Bicol Express is the spiciest pork dish in the Philippines, Spicy Gambas is the spiciest seafood dish.  In this dish, Gambas (which is the Spanish word for prawns) is cooked with siling labuyo (bird's eye chili) in tomato sauce. When I was a little girl, my father loved to cook this dish whenever he had friends coming over to our house. Though his version is really spicy because of all the bird's eye chilies in it, I loved it and he couldn't stop me from eating it. I remember my father cooking it for me with no bird's eye chilies. He said it's kid friendly that way and I will enjoy it more. 

My daughters are still young and they don't like too spicy food, so I very seldom cook this dish as spicy as it should be. But today, I'm sharing with you my usual version of Filipino Spicy Gambas which is a modified version of my father's recipe based on what ingredients are available here in TX. Ryan and I love this with hot rice. It's also good with a bottle of beer! When I cook this for my daughters, I just remove the anaheim pepper and the chili sauce. With just the bell pepper, it has this sweet flavor that they really love!

  • 1 lb. shrimps, peeled and deveined
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon extract
  • ½ Tbsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 2" strips
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 2" strips
  • 2 pcs. anaheim pepper, seeds removed and bias sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ Tbsp Chili Sauce (or less, depending on how hot you want it)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine ½ Tbsp fish sauce, lemon extract, garlic powder and 1/8 tsp black pepper in a bowl. Marinate shrimps for at least 15 minutes.
2. In a wok over medium heat, saute garlic in olive oil until light brown. Add onion and saute until translucent.

3. Add the shrimps and saute just until they turn light pink. Remove shrimps from skillet and set aside.
4. Add anaheim and bell pepper into the skillet. Saute for a minute. 

5. Add tomato sauce, rice wine, chili sauce and remaining fish sauce and allow to simmer for 3 minutes.

6. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste. Put back the shrimps. Mix well with other ingredients. Simmer for another minute.

7. Remove from heat. Serve hot with rice!


  1. I am also huge fan of shrimps, and my kids too! well two out of three will eat spicy, so this recipe is something I know my family would love! Great photos by the way, very bright and delicious looking!

  2. This looks so tempting, Tina! ;D
    My gals love tomato sauce shrimps and we always had that bcoz they don't like their shrimps cooked in other methods/sauces. But I'll definitely try this out. ;)

  3. Thanks Sandra & Lyn! My girls love this so much but with just the bell pepper. They find it too spicy with the chili sauce.

  4. My gals esp Trinke don't take spicy food too, so I always cook the non-spicy one for 'em. Trisia still can take some spiciness but depending on what kinda dishes tho ;)

  5. Food memories are just the best, aren't they?! I really love the ingredients in this dish, Tina. I can just imagine the rich flavor. And beer sounds like the perfect drink to have with this dish. And maybe some bread!

  6. Gambas with a pitcher of San Miguel beer? The perfect pulutan!! Love it!

  7. @Linda: oh memories are the best!
    @Jun: Love this with San Mig Lite when I was in college! (^.^) Perfect pulutan indeed!

  8. wow...looks yummy!

    I love gambas too but don't know how to cook it...

    will try your recipe this weekend...

    shrimps are inexpensive down here in the south...big ones usually cost Php210.00/kilo...

  9. I'm sure I'd have to tone this down for my family, too, but this looks amazing! And I'm all for spicy :)

  10. I'm looking at the picture of this dish and my mouth is watering with all the shrimp (although I can't eat a lot of it) and the spices -- Delicious, Tina!

  11. I feel hungry after looking at these pictures :) Great dish!

  12. We have cut down of prawns for the high calories in it, but I am sure the sauce will be great even with fish which we tend to eat more often now a days. That red color is so tempting Tina

  13. Hey Tina, I'm a big fan of shrimps too! This dish is so colourful. Yum!

  14. we love our shrimp in this house and i find it so interesting to hear how different cultures name dishes. This one would be our creole shrimp but to you it is gambas. So cool! it looks great

  15. This looks so delicious, I tried to comment on it yesterday but our phone line kept going out in the storm. I could eat shrimp several times a week and still want some. I'm the only one that can eat it at our house (everyone else is allergic to shellfish) so I make it for lunch when I have the house to myself. I need to try this recipe.

  16. These look so good. I've been wanting to make a shrimp dish for awhile now but the shrimp here are sooooo expensive. Maybe I'll just go to the nearest beach and try to catch them myself...

  17. Growing up in Texas, my family ate a lot of shrimp. Your recipe sounds delicious, I'll be making it soon. I just did a post about spicy shrimp that I think you will like. Take a look, if you have time.

  18. Just looks mouthwatering and so easy to prepare...delicious!

  19. this brings back memories. used to have this as apps in bars like peps.. sounds so eighties ba? hahah .. but yeah gambas remind me of those date nights and fun nights in manila.
    i hope you are having a great week,

  20. Yummy recipe Tina! I love spicy food!!! And I too find that my girls love food I used to crave while I was expecting them... isn't that weird?? :-)

  21. I love Gambas, especially when it's cooked Filipino style! I like your blog so much. There are so many reminders of life back home in the Philippines. Mabuhay!

  22. Congrats for being featured on Foodbuzz and bringing to the forefront another Filipino dish :)