Red-Cooked Shrimp

Hongshao Xia

Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Red-cooked

The only thing you can be sure of in a red-cooked, or hongshao, dish is that it contains soy sauce. Each regional cuisine has its own way of making red-cooked dishes. In Shanghai they contain sugar, in Peking they are plain and taste of soy sauce, and in Szechwan they are hot. Of course, an authentically prepared Szechwanese home-cooked hongshao dish is more than just hot; Mrs. Chiang’s rich and spicy Red-Cooked Shrimp has a thick, dark sauce full of garlic, ginger, and chopped scallions whose bright, sharp tastes complement the sweet, fresh flavor of the shrimp. This is a very easy recipe; the actual cooking takes about 5 minutes.

Method

Preparation

1 pound medium raw shrimps (for a yield of about 25 shrimps) Rinse the shrimps well under running water. Pull off their legs, but leave the shells on. Using a scissors, cut a slit half-way up the back of each shell. (This will allow the marinade and cooking sauce to penetrate the shrimp more easily.) Put the shrimps on a plate.

1 inch-piece fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

Peel the ginger, then chop it into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head, then sprinkle 1 teaspoonful of the chopped ginger and the salt over the shrimp. Make sure that the salt and the ginger are evenly distributed over the shrimp, then set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
9 cloves garlic Peel the garlic, then chop it coarsely, into pieces about the size of grains of uncooked rice.
4 scallions Clean the scallions, then slice them, both the white part and half of the green, crosswise into small pieces about ⅛ inch long.

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Combine the cornstarch and the water in a small bowl and set aside.

Cooking

2 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a moderately high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. It should be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
(shrimps) When the oil is ready, add the shrimps and stir-fry for 45 seconds, using your cooking shovel or spoon in a scooping motion to toss the shrimps around in the pan so they are all exposed to the hot oil.
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry Pour in the wine, cover the pan, and let the shrimps continue to cook over a fairly high flame for another 45 seconds; by that time they should have stiffened and turned slightly pink. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.

3 tablespoons peanut oil

(garlic and remaining ginger)

Wipe out the pan with paper towels, then reheat it over a moderate flame. Pour in the fresh oil. When it is hot enough to cook with, toss in the chopped garlic and the rest of the chopped ginger.

2 teaspoons hot pepper paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce

½ cup water

1-¼ teaspoons granulated sugar

1-¼ teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Stir-fry the garlic and ginger vigorously for 30 seconds, then reduce the heat slightly and stir in the hot pepper paste, soy sauce, water, sugar, and vinegar.

(shrimps)

(scallions)

Return the shrimps to the pan, along with the chopped scallions. Cover the pan and let cook over a moderately high flame for about 2 minutes.
(cornstarch and water) Stir the cornstarch and water to make sure it is well combined, then pour the mixture into the pan. Continue to stir-fry until the sauce has become thick and clear; this should only take about 15 seconds. Serve immediately.

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