Sizzling Shrimp in the Shell


Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

One Good Dish

By David Tanis

Published 2013

  • About

When you cook shrimp this way, the meat stays succulent because it essentially steams within its protective shell as the shrimp fries. The exterior seasoning flavors every bite, and much of the shell is edible, especially the tasty little legs (this is finger food, of course). Fresh wild shrimp in the shell is best, no matter what size. If you use frozen shrimp, choose a sustainable source.


  • ¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon whole cloves
  • Half a star anise
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • pounds fresh head-on shrimp or 1 pound medium shrimp in the shell, rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh green Thai chile or other hot chile
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges


    Grind the Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, cloves, and star anise to a fine powder in a spice mill, and add the cinnamon. Stir this mixture into the cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Dip each shrimp into the seasoned cornstarch, turning to coat, and put them on a plate in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the oil looks wavy, carefully add the shrimp and let them sizzle for about a minute or two on each side, until well crisped. Remove and drain on paper towels.

    Transfer the shrimp to a serving dish. Season once more with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the chopped chile and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, and eat with your fingers.