Salt and pepper shrimp is called椒盐大虾 /jiāoyán/. Jiao Yan is a style of dish that the food is deep fried until crispy and then sprinkled with the Jiaoyan seasoning. I am using shrimp as a demo today, and I will talk about how to apply it to other proteins. Once you learn, you can literally make Jiao Yan anything.
TO MARINADE THE SHRIMP
- 1 lb of shrimp (chicken wings, pork ribs, and potatos)
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1.5 tsp of soy sauce
- 1.5 tsp of chinese cooking wine
- 1/2 inch of ginger, grated
- 3 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 tbsp of cornstarch for the marinade
- 1 cup of potato starch for the coating
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALT AND PEPPER
- 3 tbsp of sea salt
- 3 tbsp of sichuan peppercorn
- 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp of white pepper
- 1/2 tbsp of chili powder
- 2 cups of oil for deep frying
- 2 red chili, sliced thinly
- 2 green chili, sliced thinly
- 2 scallions, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 inch of ginger, sliced thinly
Let’s start by making the seasoning powder. Jiao yan translates as salt and pepper. The pepper actually refers to the Sichuan peppercorn. It is not spicy, but it has a unique citrus flavor that dominates the Jiao Yan flavor. Without it, the dish is not authentic.
Toast the salt, Sichuan peppercorn, black pepper, and white pepper into the wok over low heat for a couple of minutes. You can use all black pepper if that’s what you have. Transfer the spices into a grinder and blend into a fine powder. Last, I like to mix in 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder. Be sure to adjust the spicy level to your preference.
We usually make more than what we need because this seasoning can stay good in a sealed container at room temperature for 6 months. You can turn any crispy food into Jiaoyan style by simply sprinkling it on.
Next, we are going to marinade the shrimp. I have got here some peeled and deveined shrimp. I kept the tail on for the presentation. You can remove it if you want. They are not cooked. These are red shrimp so the color is pink when they are raw.
Marinade with salt, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, grated ginger, garlic, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Mix thoroughly.
Add 1/2 cup of cornstarch into a big container that comes with a lid. Add the shrimp. Then cover the shrimp with another 1/2 cup of cornstarch. Put on the lid and shake well. Let it sit for 10 minutes so the starch has time to bond with the shrimp.
The first tbsp of cornstarch in the marinade acts like glue, which will catch more starch while shaking. If you ask me, will all-purpose flour work, the answer is yes, but the crust will turn soft quickly. It is best to eat it fast after the frying so you don’t lose the crispy texture.
During this time, you can prepare some aromatic. Slice a couple of red and green chilies, a few cloves of garlic, and 1/2 inch of ginger thinly. Cut 2 scallions diagonally.
Put the shrimp in a sieve, then shake it a few times to get rid of the excess flour. Fry the shrimp in 2 batches in 360 F oil for 1-2 minutes, depending on the size. Rest the shrimp onto a rack for 15 minutes to drain out the excess oil. The rest of the heat will continue to cook the shrimp. The moisture will redistribute and soften the crust. Then we will double fry it.
Bring the oil to 400 F and add the shrimp. A higher temperature can quickly reinforce the crust. This will only take a minute or 2. Remove the shrimp and set it aside. Use pepper towels to absorb the excess oil.
As I mentioned, this dish can be made with other ingredients, such as beef, chicken wings, ribs, squid, and potatoes. All the steps are the same except the frying time because every ingredient is different. You can check this form for reference.
Now, put all the aromatics into a sieve except the scallions. Quickly fry them in the hot oil for 30 seconds. You could stir fry them, but we have the oil here so it is just easier this way. Remove the paper towel from the shrimp and add the aromatics along with the reserved scallions.
Sprinkle 2 tsp of that Jiao yan seasoning and toss thoroughly. Although there are only a few ingredients in the Jiaoyan seasoning, the flavor is classic, I really like the pungent Sichuan peppercorn aroma. It also gives you a numbing effect, which stands out the crispiness and makes this shrimp special. I hope you give this a try soon and apply this seasoning to other ingredients.