Shrimp Calabash

How one small fishing town made a name for itself with delectable fried seafood.

Originating in the small town of its namesake–Calabash, North Carolina—this style of fried seafood is iconic to the Grand Strand. All along this string of fishing towns you’ll find mom-and-pop seafood houses serving up baskets of golden, crispy Calabash-style fish, shrimp, and oysters. What makes the dish so appealing is the light-as-air batter the seafood is coated in. When fried, it creates a translucent crust with wisps of crunchy goodness.

In 1940, Lucy Coleman opened a restaurant named The Original. What was initially a simple shelter for oyster roasts to feed workers and wayfarers alike, Lucy eventually took a page from her family’s traditions and started dipping her seafood in evaporated milk then in a seasoned dredge and frying it. The Original thus became the birthplace of this heavenly dish we now know as Calabash seafood.

Shrimp Calabash
Impress your guests at your next fish fry with this irresistibly crunchy shrimp for starters.
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  1. In a Dutch oven, pour oil to fill halfway. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and evaporated milk. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together flour, garlic salt, pepper, and paprika. Working in batches, dip shrimp in egg mixture, letting excess drip off. Dredge in flour mixture.
  3. Fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let drain on prepared rack.
KITCHEN TIP: Shrimp Calabash is excellent served with cocktail sauce. For an easy dip, mix together ½ cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons horseradish, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.