Thursday, December 24, 2009

Szechuan Pepper Fried Shrimp with Crispy Green Onions

Szechuan peppers are one of my favorite spices. The flavor is very unique. No relation to peppercorns or peppers, szechuan peppers are actually the emptied husk of a tiny seedpod. When using fresh szechuan peppers it is easy to overpower a recipe so I am quite careful to start with a little and add at the end of cooking if the flavor isn't strong enough for my preference. The freshest szechuan peppers I've tried were from Penzeys.

My first encounter with this wonderful spice was actually in a wonderful Chinese restaurant in North Carolina. The spice was incorporated into a batter fried calamari dish that had charred green onions. I'm not particularly a batter fried fan when I cook at home so I use cornstarch to create a crust. I didn't have calamari so I used shrimp. Both are delicious so use what you have.

Szechuan Pepper Fried Shrimp with Crispy Green Onions
1 1/2 pound of shrimp - shells and tails removed
1/2 cup of cornstarch
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
4 cups canola oil
4 green onions - thinly slice
1 tbsp oil - canola or olive oil

In a large bowl toss the shrimp with 1 tbsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp soy sauce. Once the shrimp are coated in the sesame oil and soy sauce, dust the cornstarch over the shrimp and toss to coat.

Heat the oil to about 325 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. The oil is hot enough when the the oil bubbles a little around the end of the spoon.

Drop the shrimp in the oil in small enough batches that you don't cool down the oil (about 8 shrimp at a time). Cook the shrimp until a light golden color - about 1 1/2 minutes per batch. Don't overcook the shrimp. Shrimp are so wonderfully delicate when they are cooked properly. Pull the shrimp out and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Continue cooking until all shrimp have been fried.

As you are cooking the shrimp heat a tbsp of oil in your favorite wok. Once the oil has reached the smoking point drop the green onions into the wok. Stir fry occasionally. I like to let the onions be still in the wok a little because this will allow the onions to char slightly. Once the onions are crispy, toss in the fried shrimp and drizzle over the remaining amount of sesame oil and soy sauce. Writing this post is driving me nuts, maybe I need to make this again this weekend.....

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