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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let drain on prepared rack.