Recipe: Cecilia Chiang Shrimp

Oct 28, 2018

Food Guy Greg Patent stays alert for new ways to cook shrimp. When a friend pointed out this recipe by legendary 98-year-old retired San Francisco restauranteur, Cecilia Chiang, Greg made a beeline for it.  He dresses up its simplicity with added vegetables, ginger and garlic, transforming it into a delightful main dish.

Look for uncooked, medium to large-sized, deveined shrimp, and if they're very big, slice them lengthwise before cooking.  Of particular interest to Greg is the purification step of tossing the shrimp with salt.

Cecilia Chiang Shrimp, adapted by Greg Patent. From Cecilia Chiang's book (with Lisa Weiss), "The Seventh Daughter:  My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco."

The shrimp:

*1 1/4 to 1 1/2 poundsd (30 to 35) shrimp, shelled and de-veined
*1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
*1 tablespoon of cornstarch
*1 tablespoon of peanut oil (or grapeseed, safflower, sunflower or corn oil)

The vegetables:

*1 small red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into 1" strips. About 4 oz., prepared
*6 oz. of cremeni or white mushrooms, wiped clean and diced
*8 oz. of peeled asparagus spears, cut on the bias into 2" lengths
*2 or 3 green onions, trimmed and sliced about 1/4" thick

The sauce:

*3 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
*3 tablespoons of soy sauce
*3 tablespoons of sugar
*6 tablespoons of ketchup, preferably organic
*1 tablespoon of Asian (toasted) sesame oil
*2 tablespoons of mince garlic
*2 tablespoons of minced, peeled fresh ginger
*1/2 to 2 teaspoons of dried red pepper flakes

Cooking ingredients:

*5 tablespoons of peanu oil (or other, see above)
*salt, to taste

Prep instructions:

1. For the shrimp: toss them with your fingers in a medium bowl with the kosher salt, to coat well. Add cold tap water to cover, and splash the shrimp around to remove the salt. Drain well and set the shrimp on paper towels. Dry the bowel and return the shrimp to it. Add the cornstarch and peanut oil, and mix well.

2. For the vegetablese: prep and combine in a bowl.

3. For the sauce: whisk together the wine, soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, and sesame oil. Have ready the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.

Cooking instructions:

4. Before cooking, also have ready a strainer set over a medium bowl. Place a large wok or 12" skillet over high heat. When very hot - test with a few drops of water that should sizzle and sputter violently and evaporate almost instantly - add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, swirl the pan, and add the bell pepper, mushrooms, asparagus, and green onions. Toss well, and add a sprinkle of salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or so; go easy here. Toss almost constantly - important - and cook 2 to 3 minutes until the bell pepper and saparagus are crisp-tender. The mushrooms should be tender. Transfer the vegetablese to the strainer to rest and drain off any excess liquid. There won't be more than a few tablespoons of vegetable juices.

5. Return the wok or skillet to high heat and when the pan is very hot, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt, and swirl the pan around. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and stir constantly for just a few seconds. You don't want the garlic and ginger to burn! Immediately add the shrimp and stir madly for about 1 minute, until the shrimp just turn pink. Pour in the sauce, and stir constantly as it comes to a boil. Add the vegetables, stir well, and take the pan off the heat. The cooking is done.

6. Transfer the shrimp, vegetables and sauce to a serving dish and serve immediately with cooked rice.

Makes 4 dinner servings.

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 10/28/18. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays, or via podcast.)