In the past couple of decades, kung pao chicken and kung pao shrimp have become among Americans’ favorite Chinese dishes, second probably only to fried rice and cream cheese-filled wontons.
In this country, kung pao is often loaded up with veggies: carrots, celery, onions, zucchini and such. In Szechuan, China, however, it’s traditionally a much more basic dish. And, that’s the way I prefer it. Here is a tasty and authentic recipe for kung pao shrimp. It’s as close as I can get to the kung pao I remember from my days dining in New York City’s Chinatown.
- 12 oz. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups peanut oil
- 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Chinese cooking wine
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vinegar
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- cornstarch paste made with 1 Tbs each water and cornstarch
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 3 scallions, minced
- 1 green bell pepper (optional)
- 1/2 Tbs peeled and minced fresh ginger root
- 1/2 cup raw or roasted peanuts
- handful of dried chili peppers such as arbol
- 10 Szechuan peppercorns (or substitute black peppercorns or ground Szechuan peppercorn powder)
- In a bowl, combine the 2 tsp. cornstarch, the egg white and salt.
- Toss the shrimp in the mixture to marinate for about 15 minutes prior to cooking.
- In another small bowl, make a seasoning mixture combining the soy sauce, wine, sugar, sesame oil, and vinegar.
- In a wok, heat the oil over high heat.
- Carefully add the shrimp to the oil and fry until just barely pink. This can take as little as 20-30 seconds, depending on the size of the shrimp.
- Remove the shrimp from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Next, add the peanuts, peppercorns and the chili peppers to the hot oil and fry briefly, until the peanuts have browned a little.
- Carefully pour off all but about 1-2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok.
- Working quickly, add the garlic, ginger and scallions and toss quickly in the oil. Don’t burn the garlic!
- Add the shrimp back to the wok, along with the soy sauce/wine/sugar/vinegar/sesame oil mixture.
- Stir fry briefly until the shrimp is cooked through.
- Add the cornstarch paste to thicken the mixture, if needed.
- Serve with steamed rice.
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