An Intimidation of Shrimp: A Cooking the Books Roundtable

An Intimidation of Shrimp isn’t a proper collective noun, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was? It snags the imagination, makes you wonder what strange, tiny danger is this?

In Aliette de Bodard‘s short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels food is dangerous, political, intimidating, and delicious — sometimes all of the above at the same time. Aliette’s latest novel The House of Shattered Wings appears in August from Roc in the US and Gollancz in the UK.

In Zen Cho‘s novels, food is as defining of character as the way one conducts oneself about a matter of magic. Zen’s novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, arrives in the US and UK on September 1 from Roc and Tor-UK.

And as for me, food is a way to reveal much — about a world, a person, or a situation, in a few bites. My first novel, Updraft, appears September 1 from Tor.

sorcerer_front mech.indd
Order Sorcerer to the Crown
house of shattered
Order House of Shattered Wings
Order Updraft (Amazon | B&N)

There’s much more to say, of course, but we’d rather say it to you over the course of the extended podcast, brought to you from three countries simultaneously. With a guest appearance by Aliette’s young “Snakelet.”

So pull up a chair and your international tastebuds and enjoy the latest Cooking the Books mini-roundtable, with Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, and Fran Wilde

The ingredients for podcast #013: An Intimidation of Shrimp include:

  • shrimp obtained with great difficulty
  • two dining superstitions
  • one roast chicken and one lobster
  • suggested dos and don’ts of worldbuilding
  • the worst pun ever
  • various threats to do with fish sauce
  • I did say it was a terrible pun
  • 60% more authors than usual

Heartfelt thanks to John DeNardo, Paul Weimer, Kristin Centorcelli and everyone at SFSignal for ditching the Iron Islands Chef idea. And the best direwolf dish contest. On that note, enjoy your delicious Cooking the Books podcast below!

Ready? Subscribe to the Podcast here! Or click play below:

Podcast #013: An Intimidation of Shrimp: Cooking the Books with Zen Cho, Aliette de Bodard, and Fran Wilde.

As is our tradition, Aliette’s shared a recipe, below. Additionally, as promised in the podcast, Zen’s shared the list of Regency foods she used or considered for Sorcerer to the Crown:

(click to embiggen)

And the delicious (not intimidating!) shrimp recipe from Aliette (she has many more recipes here):

Aliette writes: A very quick and easy stir-fry as I’m working my way through Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge (a wonderful book on what to do with a carbon steel wok!). However, a few ground rules (I’m not pretending to be very skilled at this, but I’ve managed to do the wrong thing a couple of times already…):

  • if you don’t have a wok, use a stainless steel skillet or cast iron skillet, or anything that will bear the high heat (NOT something with a non-stick coating)
  • do stir-fry with abandon, otherwise the marinade will caramelize char quite impressively fast
  • the shrimps can be cooked, in which case wait a bit
  • it helps to put the pork belly in the fridge for a while, so it dries out the surface and it comes out golden when you put it in the pan
  • if anything you’re using is frozen, defrost and remove as much excess moisture as you can before adding to the stir-fry, if you don’t want a braise…
  • the original doesn’t have the soy sauce, but I needed something to deglaze the pan!
  • 250g boneless pork belly, sliced thinly
  • 250g shrimp, heads removed, peeled
  • 1.5 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 shallot, diced
  1. Marinate the pork belly, the sugar and the fish sauce for 5 minutes.
  2. In a wok (or frying pan) on high heat, put the pork belly and the marinade. Leave to sear for about 1 minute, then flip around and stir-fry until almost cooked. Add the diced shallot.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the soy sauce. Add the shrimp and briefly stir until cooked through (I cheated and used cooked shrimps, which required the barest of stirring).
  4. Serve with rice and a green vegetable (I find snap peas or green beans go very well with this).

Aliette de BodardAliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she works as a System Engineer. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction: she has won two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and a British Science Fiction Association Award. Her novel The House of Shattered Wings is out from Roc/Gollancz on August 18th/August 20th, and features a Paris devastated by a magical war, magical factions vying for power, Fallen angels, a Vietnamese ex-Immortal with a grudge, and entirely too many dead bodies! Visit for book geekery, fiction, and Franco-Vietnamese recipes.

zenSmZen Cho was born and raised in Malaysia. She is the author of Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad, and editor of anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, both published by Buku Fixi. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first of a historical fantasy trilogy published by Ace/Roc Books (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK). She lives in London.

shutthebarndoor3CroppedFran Wilde is the host of Cooking the Books. Her first novel, Updraft debuts from Tor in 2015. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Nature,, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She lives in Philadelphia.


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