Dinner Tonight: Hong Kong Salt Shrimp

I jumped right into this recipe from Raymond Sokolov's The Cook's Canon as soon as I saw the ingredients. I am an absolute nut for Sichuan peppercorns, and while it's apparently a common combination, the mixture of it with Chinese five-spice powder and shrimp sounded remarkable. I'd heard of black pepper shrimp, but this seemed to take the notion one delicious step further.

But the recipe is a little odder than I realized. The shrimp are dropped straight in bubbling oil, tossed with salt, and then coated with Sichuan pepper, black pepper, five-spice powder, and lots more salt. The shells crisp up in the oil, and as Sokolov claims, it is perfectly acceptable to eat the whole package, shell and all. I was reluctant at first, but turns out he's totally right. They are crunchy, but not tough. It works.

The only issue is the sheer abundance of salt. It's kind of a relief to remove the shells. You'll still get the sensation of the spices, but without the abundance of sodium. Perhaps I'll just have a lighter hand next time. My wife brought up a good point—these would make a better appetizer than a main course because they are a little too flavorful.

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Dinner Tonight: Hong Kong Salt Shrimp

About This Recipe

Yield:2 to 3 people

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shells on, heads and legs removed
  • vegetable oil for frying

Procedures

  1. 1

    Add the Sichuan peppercorns to a dry non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. Toast them quickly until they are dark and fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and grind.

  2. 2

    Add three tablespoons of the salt to the same skillet set over medium heat. Stir occasionally for about 3 minutes, or until the salt turns gray. Combine it with the ground Sichuan pepper and five-spice powder.

  3. 3

    Pour enough oil to come halfway up a medium-sized pot. Bring the temperature of the oil up 350°F. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn red, which should take less than a minute.

  4. 4

    Add the rest of the salt to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the cooked shrimp and stir quickly until coated with salt. Then transfer directly to the salt mixture. Toss until coated. Serve the shrimp on a platter, with the rest of the salt mixture on the side.

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