Kung Pao Shrimp
The name of this dish is now written in English as gong bao shrimp, and this recipe takes inspiration from the American Chinese versions that come from the Sichuan Province of China. Here, flashes of chile heat shine in a glossy swirl of a salty, sour and sweet sauce. With a confetti blend of shrimp, peppers and peanuts, each mouthful is a little spicy and chewy, savory and crisp. The deep malty tang comes from Chinkiang vinegar, a jet-black condiment from China that is traditionally fermented from grains and aged in clay. It’s key to this dish and also delicious for dipping dumplings, saucing noodles and dressing vegetables. (Balsamic vinegar, similarly fermented and aged from grape juice in barrels, is a fun, fruity substitute.) With both vegetables and protein, this one-wok stir-fry is a complete meal with steamed rice.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, thawed if frozen
- 2tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2teaspoons cornstarch
- 2tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3tablespoons soy sauce
- 2tablespoons Chinkiang (black) vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- ½teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground, plus more to taste
- 1red or orange bell pepper
- 5garlic cloves
- ¼cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
- ½cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- ¾cup small dried red chiles (23 grams; see Tip)
- 3large scallions, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
Step 1Mix the shrimp, Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a bowl until the shrimp are evenly coated. Let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.
Step 2Stir the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, Sichuan pepper and remaining teaspoon cornstarch in a separate bowl. Dice the bell pepper and thinly slice the garlic. Have all your ingredients ready next to the stove.
Step 3Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat for 15 seconds. Add the peanuts and stir until browned in spots, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring, until the pepper is bright and the garlic starts to become translucent, about 30 seconds. Add the chiles and stir well, then add the shrimp with its marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are curled and just opaque, 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 4Add the scallions and stir until glossy, about 15 seconds, then add the sauce. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and coats everything evenly, about 1 minute. If any of the starchy sauce has stuck to the bottom of the pan, add a splash of water and scrape up any browned bits. Taste and add more Sichuan pepper if you’d like. Immediately transfer to a dish and serve hot.