In this article, I want to share with you an easy Chinese style pan-fried shrimps recipe (豉油王蝦/干煎虾碌).
This Cantonese pan-fried shrimps recipe takes only twenty minutes to prepare, use nothing but the most common ingredients in the home kitchen. Nevertheless, it has a very different flavor from the western style garlic butter shrimps, shrimps casserole or other fried shrimps coated with batter.
Try this recipe, and you will forever remember the taste!
Perfectly pan-fried shrimps are slightly firm with a slight hint of a crunch. The meat is bouncy and juicy. This can only achieve if you use fresh shrimps and do not overcook them.
There are many variations of the recipe for this pan-fried shrimps recipe (the term prawn is sometimes used for large shrimps). It can either deep-fried or pan-fried before coating with the sauce. The constitution of the coating sauce is the determinant factor, which results in shrimps with entirely different flavor.
This recipe is the typical one for Chinese pan-fried shrimps, which allows you to make changes according to your palate.
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Step one- Prepping the shrimps.
Large fresh shrimps are ideal for this recipe, as they are more flavorful and meaty. Frozen shrimps are less flavorful, and more suitable for dishes with many ingredients, such as shrimp fried rice.
You can let the shell intact, or leave the tail section on for appearance. Shrimps with shells look gorgeous on the dining table, more succulent and capture all the natural flavor. I will leave the shell on in this recipe and only remove the heads and legs.
However, it is a bit messy when you eat them. You may consider to unshelled the shrimps for your everyday meal at home. However, unshelled shrimps loss flavor, just like cooking bone-on meat versus the boneless counterparts.
The flavor of pan-fried shrimps is also different between the shell and unshelled treatment. The unshelled shrimps are seared easily. On the contrary, shrimps with the shell can hold more sauce, and more succulent. You are the person to decide which version is best for you.
Here are the steps:
- Remove the head and leg of the shrimps with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.
- Remove the telson, i.e. the last segment of the abdomen, which is very sharp.
- Make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimps, start from the front to the tail.
- Pull out the intestinal vein, which is just below the surface.
- Butterfly the shrimp by making the cut on the back deeper. This is done for appearance, and to speed cooking by reducing the thickness.
- Rinse the shrimps under running water.
- Drain away the water with a colander or a wire mesh strainer.
Step two- Marinate the shrimp.
You might have noticed that not all the shrimp’s recipe call for marination. Some people prefer just to pat dry the shrimps with a kitchen towel and fry the shrimps without marinating them.
However, marinade helps to infuse more flavor into the shrimps but made sure it is not too overwhelming. Keep in mind that we will coat the shrimps with the sauce later. That is why we do not include salt in the recipe.
The marinade is quite simple, just some light soy sauce, cornflour, pepper, and sugar. The cornstarch helps to hold the remaining liquid of the shrimps so that t will not splatter too much while frying. Marinate for fifteen minutes should be sufficient.
Step three- Make the sauce.
There are many ways to season the pan-fried shrimps. The Cantonese method is to coat them with premium grade soy sauce, whereas the Sichuan style only seasons with salt and Sichuan peppercorns.
You can have shrimps that taste entirely different by altering the composition of the sauce. Below is the explanation of each ingredient in the seasoning. (Not all these items are used in this recipe, but you can make the variation by adding the rest).
Light soy sauce. Light soy sauce is the main seasoning ingredient in this recipe. You can find it in nearly every Chinese pan-fried shrimp’s recipe. Most recipes prefer to use light rather than dark soy sauce because the color of dark soy sauce will overshadow the bright natural color of the shrimps. It only used in a small amount for its caramelized flavor when necessary.
Premium grade soy sauce (also called first draw soy sauce / 头抽) is preferred as this dish heavily depends on the quality of soy sauce. Since the saltiness of soy sauce varied from one brand to another, you may need to adjust the amount as mentioned in the recipe.
Tomato ketchup. The taste will drastically change once you substitute half of the light soy sauce with tomato ketchup. This recipe is common in Hong Kong, called Stir Fried Ketchup Shrimps (茄汁蝦碌).
Worcestershire sauce. This sauce is not a Chinese sauce strictly speaking, but it is widely used in Chinese restaurants. I have been staying in Malaysia and Hong Kong which both are the Commonwealth countries. Worcestershire sauce was introduced to these places during the settlement of the British. The locals find that it can enhance the taste of many traditional Chinese cuisines. I suggest you can add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce along with a tablespoon of tomato ketchup. This magic pair of sauces is also used in the Japanese Hambagu which I posted separately.
Shaoxing wine. Shaoxing wine is the standard wine for Chinese cooking. If you do not prefer alcohol, just substitute it with chicken broth.
Sesame oil. Sesame oil has a strong flavor and only used sparingly. It is very useful to mask the fishy smell of seafood.
Step four- Pan-fried the shrimps
By now it is just five minutes away from serving.
Scallions and minced garlic are used in this recipe as aromatic. Add the garlic and scallions to the shrimps only when the shrimps are about 70% cooked since they cooked quicker than the shrimps, and burn if it is cooked over a long period. This method is slightly different from stir-frying that garlic and scallion are sautéed first before adding the meat or vegetables.
As for the oil, you can choose between any vegetable oil with neutral flavor or butter. Most Chinese restaurants use vegetable oil to pan-fried the shrimps.
Here are the steps:
- Pour two tablespoons of vegetable oil into the frying pan.
- Add the shrimps to the pan while the oil is not too hot. Increase the heat gradually to medium. The shrimps tend to stick to the pan if you add them into the very hot oil.
- Sear the shrimps on both sides, each side about a minute over medium heat. (Larger shrimps need 1 1/2 minutes). Do not move the shrimps around the pan while searing.
- When the shrimps are about 70% cooked, add the minced garlic and scallion. Saute until it turns aromatic. By now the shrimps should have cooked and turned opaque. Do not overcook the shrimps as they will become tough and rubbery.
- Before you add the sauce, check if there is too much oil in the pan. Should you think you do not want it to be too oily, Remove part of the oil before you add the sauce.
- Add the sauce to the shrimps. Stir-fried the shrimps until the sauce starts to dry out and form a coating on the shrimps’ surface.
- Dish up and garnish with chopped scallions.
The Cantonese Style Pan-fried Shrimps Recipe
Ingredients A- Shrimps and marinade
- 8 pieces large shrimps, (about 300g, with head and shell)
- 1 tablespoon premium light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Ingredients B- Aromatics
- 30 g scallions
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
Ingredients C- Sauce
- 1/2 tablespoons premium light soy sauce, , (reduce if prefer less salty)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Ingredients D- Others
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Remove the head and leg of the shrimps.
- Make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimps, pull out the intestinal vein.
- Butterfly the shrimp.
- Rinse the shrimps and drain away the water.
- Combine all the ingredients C to make the sauce
- Place the vegetable oil in the pan, Sear the shrimps on both sides until near cook.
- Add Ingredients C into the pan and stir-fry until aromatic.
- Add the sauce to the shrimp. Stir-fried the shrimps until the sauce forms a coating on the shrimps’ surface.
- Dish out. Garnish with more scallions and serve.
Variation: Substitute 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce with 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup plus 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
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Serving Size:8 shrimps
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 84 Total Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 79mg Sodium: 560mg Carbohydrates: 2g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 9g