Surf ‘n’ Turf Reinvented: Basil and Garlic Tri-Tip and Curry Marinated Shrimp

| May 26, 2011 | 1 Comment

For most of my life Surf and Turf has had a negative connotation. Perhaps it’s because I strongly associate it with the ’70s and all that decade represented. Conspicuous consumption. Excess. Gaudiness. Lincoln Towncars a block long. Smoking cigars. Scotch and gentlemen’s clubs (not the naughty kind; I’m thinking supper clubs for the exclusive). Living way beyond one’s means. Leveraged buyouts. You get the idea. Michael Douglas in “Wall Street.”

Coming of age in the ’70s meant I was finally able to accompany my parents to dinner, dressed up in my navy suit with light blue checkerboard pattern, my slacks girded with a wide white leather belt, hair sprayed into immobility with Vitalis, and heading with anticipation to one of their favorite steakhouses.

Seated, smoking at the table and nursing his first scotch and soda, Dad wouldn’t even look at the menu. He knew what he wanted. Surf and Turf, which meant prime rib and lobster. Conspicuous consumption at its best. Hedonistic extravagance. I mean, how else could you justify prime rib and a lobster? Either one alone could put you in a coma, but together? What could the point be but to show people that you could gorge yourself in the most obscene manner possible?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not slandering my dad. He was merely following the fashion of successful businessmen of the time —  gold Rolex on wrist and all.

But my, have times changed! These days, ordering Surf and Turf usually means a fillet mignon or New York steak and some shrimp scampi or Alaska snow crab legs. Toned down over the decades, it’s a shadow of its former self. But I stopped ordering it years ago. I’m over it. Or I thought I was.

Wandering the aisle of the grocery store and pondering what to serve my family for dinner, I was craving beef. But I also had to deal with the reality that Mom doesn’t eat beef. So I thought of grilling some shrimp and, since I had to fire up the grill, what would it hurt to throw on some beef as well? But I decided that reason should rule. No New York steak or even fillet mignon. I settled on a few pieces of tri-tip steaks for Charles and me.

Getting home, I noticed some basil, a lonely leftover from a previous day’s meal, sitting in a glass of water near the sink. I instantly decided to chop it up, as well as some garlic, and pound them in a mortar and pestle to bruise the herbs and release their flavor into some olive oil, and then marinate the steaks in it. For the surf portion of our menu, I emptied the giant shrimp from the bag into a bowl and added curry powder, some fish sauce and coconut milk, and left it to marinate in the fridge. Those of you who are familiar with Thai cooking will recognize this marinade as a variation for Satay. And so, after firing up the grill and barbecuing the shrimp and tri-tip steaks, we had Surf and Turf, reinvented, for dinner. And delicious it was.

Surf ‘n’ Turf Reinvented: Basil and Garlic Tri-Tip and Curry Marinated Shrimp

Serves 3


  1. 1 cup (240 ml.) chopped basil
  2. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) olive oil
  4. 3 tri-tip steaks, about a pound total
  5. 9 jumbo prawns or shrimp, heads removed but shells on
  6. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) curry powder
  7. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) fish sauce
  8. 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) coconut milk


  • Pound chopped basil and garlic in a mortar and pestle to bruise the herbs, add oil and stir with pestle.
  • Place steaks in a bowl and rub both sides of steaks with the herb and oil mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Place prawns or shrimp in another bowl, add curry powder, fish sauce and coconut milk ,and stir gently until the shrimp are evenly coated with the marinade. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • When charcoal is lit, grill steaks over high flame for just a few minutes on each side until they’re seared but rare in the middle. (If you grill tri-tip too long it will be tough.)
  • Grill shrimp for a few minutes on each side until shells are burnished and shrimp is cooked.
  • Serve both immediately.


— Vic

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Category: Beef, Meat, Seafood

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (1)

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  1. Marlene says:

    Does that even sound scrumptious.

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