1 sampled this well-known dish at the renowned Lou Wai Lou restaurant, on the shores of Hangzhou’s West Lake. I have heard about this dish since I was a child: freshwater prawns stir-fried and uniquely flavoured by the legendary Long Jing (Dragon Well) teas of Zhejiang province. Connoisseurs of Chinese tea regard Dragon Well as the finest. The leaves of this green tea are prepared in a complex process that avoids fermentation. The best quality leaves are picked before the spring rains fall and when the young stems have but one tender sprout. These fragile sprouts are the basis for the tea’s delicate and refreshing fragrance and taste. In the recipe, the tea leaves themselves combine with the prawns to make an exquisite and quite unusual combination with an almost fresh taste. Even more common Chinese green teas will produce wonderful results.
If the prawns are unpeeled, peel them by removing their shells, legs, and tails. Devein them by making a surface cut down the back of the prawns and removing the black, green, or yellow matter with the tip of the knife or cleaver. Rinse them well under cold running water and pat them thoroughly dry with kitchen paper. Rub the prawns evenly with salt and set aside.
Put the tea leaves in a heatproof measuring jug and pour in the hot water. Let the tea steep for 15 minutes.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until hot and add the oil. Then add the prawns and rice wine or dry sherry and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the tea and add about half of the tea leaves and cook for 1 further minute.
Remove the prawns with a slotted spoon to a serving platter and reduce any liquid in the wok by half.
Pour this over the prawns and serve at once.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.