photograph by Taylor McBride

Whether you call it a “Poor Boy,” or a “Po’ Boy,” this sandwich just hits the spot when you’re in the mood for a little bit of seafood, but you’re not ready for a big plate of fried goodness. Yes, we like our seafood here in North Carolina, but sometimes you’re just not ready for one of those big platters of “lightly fried and lightly battered” oysters, shrimp, fish, deviled crab, scallops, and clam strips. Yep, you can get all of it on one big platter from most any true seafood restaurant across the state. They’ll even add french fries or baked potato, coleslaw and a basket of hush puppies, just in case you’re hungry. How in the world do we eat it all?

Years back, we offered a “Captain’s Platter” at my brother’s seafood restaurant and it included ALL of the above-mentioned items. It was one of our most popular dishes and it contained a lot of fried seafood. Sadly, you could get all of that back then, for what I paid for one pound of shrimp ($12.50) just a few days ago. My, how times do change.

Most folks in North Carolina seem to get a craving for seafood on Friday night. It’s become tradition to gather with family and friends and make the trek to a local favorite seafood restaurant each week. But again, when you’re not up for all that food, perhaps our shrimp po’ boy will tame that hunger for a taste of the sea.

It’s likely you might balk at my use of lard to fry the shrimp in. To me though, it’s the only way to fry seafood. Lard forces you to get your food out to the tables really fast. It has to be served piping hot. If the fried food starts to cool, the seafood will taste greasy. You most certainly don’t want that.

While I can’t give away any secret family recipes here, I do hope you’ll try our shrimp po’ boy sandwich recipe. I’m making a simple seafood breading, but you can most certainly use any of the ready-made breading mixes on the market to make the recipe even easier. North Carolina is blessed with several companies that provide seafood breading, hush puppy mixes, and more. I hope you’ll try a few of them along the way.

Yield: 2 sandwiches

1 pound shrimp
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
Vegetable oil or lard for frying
2 hoagie rolls
Tartar sauce
Lettuce, tomato, and red onion for topping

Peel, devein, and rinse shrimp. Let drain. Place shrimp in a small bowl and coat evenly with evaporated milk. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Stir to combine.

In a medium saucepot over medium heat, add enough vegetable oil or lard to reach a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Heat to 375°.

Place shrimp in breading mixture and toss until lightly coated. Shake off excess flour and place shrimp in oil.

Cook shrimp for 1-2 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring with a slotted spoon as needed.

Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp from hot oil and place on a brown paper bag to let drain.

Prepare and cut rolls. Top with tartar sauce and shrimp. Add lettuce, tomato, and onions to taste.

Serve warm.

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Gordon is an award-winning food preservationist and fisherman based in Sanford. He regularly contributes recipes at and operates a Southern recipe blog,