Monday, February 7, 2011

Salt and Pepper Shrimp

You often see Salt and Pepper Shrimp on menus at Chinese restaurants. Deep-fried and crispy, they often come coated in a thick batter which makes the shrimp barely recognizable, and then further buried underneath a big, salty and peppery pile of garlic, chilli peppers and green onions.


This version of the popular dish is the way my mom has always made it: much lighter as she doesn't deep-fry them, and not coated in a thick batter. Despite being just pan-fried, the shrimp retains its crispy integrity, and is an absolutely delight when combined with the irresistible but simple combination of garlic, chilli peppers, salt and pepper. The smell of it alone as you're cooking will have you salivating.

Be sure to use shrimps with their heads on (they can easily be found at Asian supermarkets). The flash-cooking ensures that the heads are still juicy, and it's really one of the best parts. It's a bit of a messy affair you suck on the juices, but one that's well worth it.


Salt and Pepper Shrimp
Serves 2 to 3

1/2 lb medium shrimp with heads on
1/2 teaspoon ginger juice*
1 teaspoon shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon chilli pepper, finly sliced

Rinse and cut antennae, feelers and and the sharp point on the head of the shrimp with scissors. Pat dry with paper towel. Place the bowl in a small bowl and marinate with the ginger juice, wine and cornstarch. Mix well and let sit for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper and sugar. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the shrimp for 1 minute on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Do this in two batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.

Remove the excess oil, leaving a bit in the pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and chilli pepper and quick stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add the shrimp and sprinkle in the salt and pepper seasoning, a little at a time. Stir everything together so that it's well coated. Take a little taste and if you think the shrimp needs a little more seasoning, then sprinkle some more in and stir to coat. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

*Use a grater to grate some ginger, then take the grated ginger and squeeze to extract the juices.


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