In the past couple of decades, kung pao chicken and kung pao shrimp seem to have become Americans' favorite Chinese dishes, second probably only to fried rice. 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 my tasty and authentic recipe for kung pao shrimp. It's as close as I can get to the kung pao I remember from 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
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup raw or roasted peanuts
handful of dried chili peppers
10 Szechuan peppercorns (or substitute black peppercorns)
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.
Note: DON'T eat the dried chili peppers. They are meant only for seasoning.