HONG KONG SALTY PEPPERY SHRIMP (for four as a first course)
“… this is the simplest possible example of the stir-fry method. It is obviously very quick, especially if you can drop your prejudice against shrimp veins. Taking them out is boring fussy work, and there is no point to it. They are harmless and once you’ve cooked the shrimp and sauced them, no one will realize they are still there.
“Yes, you say, but what about the shrimp shells? Leave them be. They soak up flavor, and once you get over your belief that they shouldn’t be eaten, you will join hundreds of millions of Asians who like their crunch. Guests who don’t want them can easily remove them with a fork and knife or chopsticks. If they raise their eyebrows when they notice you scarfing those shells, just say eating them is authentic.” Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon
1 pound large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound, shells on) heads and legs removed, deveined (cut shells down the back and remove veins, leaving shells intact)
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil
½ cup fresh ginger, julienned
3 tablespoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground Sichuan peppercorns, or ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons ground five spice powder
3 to 4 scallions, julienned
- Rinse shrimp and dry them thoroughly. Arrange them on paper towels in groups of eight.
- Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a skillet (Fill to about ½ inch depth — 2 cups of oil for a 10 inch skillet, 3 cups for a 12 inch skillet — DO NOT increase the amount of oil. Hot oil will bubble up, sometimes dramatically, when the shrimp are dropped in. If it overflows the skillet and makes contact with the flame below, your kitchen will be on fire.) Slip in the shrimp (in batches of about eight at a time. Resist the temptation to make larger batches. More shrimp will reduce the heat of the oil and the shrimp will stick together and not cook properly. More shrimp also increases the chance of an oil overflow.) and fry until they turn red, less than a minute. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. When all the shrimp are fried, add julienned ginger to oil and fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove promptly to the paper towels.
- Stir together salt, pepper and five-spice powder. (If, by chance, you’ve made Sichuan salt and pepper and have some in your cupboard, omit this step. You’re already good to go.)
- Heat wok or heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then add deep fried shrimp and enough of the spice mix to coat them lightly (about 1 tablespoon). Stir-fry 10 seconds.
- Transfer to a serving dish. Top with ginger and scallions and pass the rest of the spice mixture on the side.
adapted from Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon