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Food
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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Pepper and Salt Shrimp

The flavor and texture of this shrimp are fabulous. Once the shrimp are fried, the shells turn a rich shade of orange and are not only edible, but crunchy and delicious. Just make sure the sharp spine has been removed from the tail. The shrimp meat also has a crispness that is unexpected while being juicy and flavorful. It's important that the shrimp be sufficiently dry before being marinated. If there is moisture on the shrimp, the oil will splatter when they are added.

1 pound medium shrimp, unshelled
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons rice cooking wine (Shao Hsing brand preferred)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 scallion, finely minced

Using kitchen shears, cut through the shrimp shells two-thirds of the length down the back of the shrimp. Remove the legs and devein the shrimp, leaving the shells and tails on. Pull off the sharp spine that is about 1/2-inch long between the soft tail fins. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several thicknesses of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. Because the shrimp are deep-fried, they must be bone-dry before cooking.

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the rice wine, and toss to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Do not allow the shrimp to sit for more than 10 minutes or the texture of the shrimp will be mushy. Sprinkle the shrimp with cornstarch and toss until well combined.

In a heavy 9-inch-wide, 4-inch-high pot, heat oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Carefully add the shrimp and cook 45 seconds to 1 minute, or just until shrimp turn bright orange. Carefully remove shrimp with a slotted metal spoon to a platter lined with several thicknesses of paper towels. Remove oil from heat and set aside to cool.

Heat a 14-inch- flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully add 1 tablespoon of the reserved hot oil to the wok along with the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry 20 to 30 seconds, or just until mixture begins to brown. Add the shrimp, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and crushed red pepper flakes, and stir-fry 1 minute, or until combined and shrimp are just cooked through. Stir in the scallion and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 as part of a multicourse meal.

"Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" by Grace Young

Thursday, August 12, 1999



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