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Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp

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Serves 2 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal

  • by Grace Young from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge

There are many versions of this beloved dry stir-fry. The absence of liquid in the stir-fry allows you to experience a concentrated shrimp flavor accented by garlic, ginger, chilies, and Sichuan peppercorns. For this reason, it’s imperative to use the freshest ingredients. If you can find fresh shrimp, you'll really taste the difference in this recipe. Defrosted frozen shrimp will work; just make sure it’s the best quality possible.

  • 2 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns (see tip)
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced jalapeño chili, with seeds
Tip:
To roast Sichuan peppercorns, put them in a dry, cold wok, removing any tiny stems. Stir over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes until the peppercorns are very fragrant and slightly smoking. Be careful not to let them burn. Once they're cooled, grind them in a mortar, then store them in a jar.

In a large bowl combine 1 Tbs. of the salt with 1 quart cold water. Add the shrimp and swish the shrimp in the water with your hand for about 30 seconds. Drain. Add 1 more Tbs. salt to the bowl with 1 quart of cold water and repeat. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, sugar, and ground Sichuan peppercorns.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 of contact. Swirl in 1 Tbs. of the oil, add the garlic, ginger, and chili, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the garlic mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp, and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Swirl in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp just begin to turn orange. Sprinkle on the salt mixture and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked.

Photo: Steven Mark Needham

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