Kung Pao Shrimp is a classic Sichuan dish. As a variant of Kung pao chicken, it is easy to make and great to serve with white rice because the taste is flavorful, complex, and well-balanced.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 2-3 people with some rice)
To Marinade the Shrimp
- 1 lb of shrimp
- 1/3 tsp of salt
- Some white pepper to taste
- 2.5 tsp of Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tbsp of cornstarch
- 2/3 cup of cornstarch
To Make the Sauce (碗芡)
- 4.5 tbsp of sugar
- 1.5 tsp of cornstarch
- 2 tbsp of light soy sauce
- 2.5 tbsp of Chinese black vinegar
- 3 tbsp of water
- 1.5 cups of oil for deep frying
- 1/2 cup of peanuts
- a handful of red dried chilies
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 1/2 inch of ginger, sliced thinly
- 4 scallions, dice the white and cut the green part into short pieces
- 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 1 tbsp of Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang
I have got here some peeled and devein shrimp. Marinade it with 1/3 teaspoon of salt, some white pepper powder, 2.5 tsp of Chinese cooking wine, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Mix that well. (An important note here: please pay attention to the ingredient list if you are buying frozen shrimp. Most shrimp on the market is frozen with a salt solution. In that case, you have to use less salt or rinse the shrimp thoroughly before seasoning.)
Here is 2/3 cup of cornstarch. Add half of it into a big container. Then add the shrimp. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the cornstarch. Put on the lid and shake well. The first tbsp of cornstarch in the marinade acts like a glue, which will catch more starch while shaking.
Set the shrimp aside, and we are going to make a sauce, which is what we call 碗芡. In a sauce bowl, add 4.5 tbsp of sugar and 1.5 tsp of cornstarch. Give that a mix so the cornstarch won’t clump up when you add the rest of the seasoning: 2 tbsp of light soy sauce and 2.5 tbsp of Chinese black vinegar; this can be replaced by white vinegar or rice vinegar. Last, 3 tbsp of water. Mix well. Set it aside.
Another key element of kung pao style recipe is nuts. You can use any nuts that you are not allergic to. I am using peanuts. They are raw so I am going to add some oil to the wok along with the nuts. Turn the heat to medium low and start heating. Stir constantly so the nuts don’t burn. You can also roast the nuts in a 360 F oven for 12 minutes. I am using the frying method is because we are going to shallow fry the shrimp as well. Stir constantly and keep an eye on the wok. Once you see there are so many small bubbles coming out and the nuts is slightly opened like that. You have to turn off the heat and remove the nuts from the oil. This process will only take 2-3 minutes. If you are not careful, you will end up with burned peanuts.
Next, we will fry the shrimp. Use a sieve to get rid of excess starch. Check the oil’s temperature. We want it to be at 400 F. I only used 1.5 cup of oil so you definitely want to fry them in 2 batches. Otherwise, the shrimp will drop down the oil’s temperature, which is a risk of drying out the shrimp.
Keep the heat at high for 2-3 minutes depending on the size. Stir constantly. Ok, that looks good. Transfer the shrimp to a rack to drain out the excess oil.
Remove any crumbs that are left in the oil by using a sieve. Otherwise, they will burn when you fry the next batch of shrimp. As a variant of kung pao chicken, one of the differences is that this dish is deep fry and kung pao chicken is stir fried. So the shrimp is slightly crispy and coated with a glossy sauce.
You will need 4 cloves of garlic and 1/2 inch of ginger, I sliced them thinly; 4 scallions, I diced the white part and cut green part into stalks. A handful of red dried chilies. I cut 1/2 of them open to release the flavor. 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorn powder. The peppercorns look like this. I just toast them over low heat for a couple of minutes and grind into a fine powder. If you like Chinese food, you definitely want to keep some huajiao in your pantry.
You will also need some Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang. Although I don’t know any replacements, you can still make this dish without the chilies, the sichuan peppercorns, and the dou ban jiang. That’s what most Americanized takeout restaurants do. But these 3 ingredients create the classic spicy and numbing flavor, which makes this dish authentic. So it is your choice to get them or not.
Alright, let’s go back to the wok. Remove most of the oil and keep 1.5 tbsp because we will use that to saute all the aromatics and the Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang. Stir over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes or until fragrant.
Add the sichuan peppercorn powder. Pour in the sauce. Stir over medium low heat for a couple of minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
Add the reserved green part of the scallion, the peanuts, the shrimp. Toss until everything is coated thoroughly and you are done. Enjoy!