Salt and Pepper Shrimp (Jiao Yan Xia)
Salt and pepper preparations are ubiquitous in stateside restaurants, both Chinese and Vietnamese, offering chicken, squid, shrimp and pork, especially ribs. Simply put, before frying, the meat is dredged in a mixture of salt and ground white or black pepper, giving it a dry, intense, sparkly sort of taste. However, it is not as common in China, unless one considers the very common Sichuanese penchant for using a salt and Sichuan peppercorn mixture as a dip, especially with steamed chicken.
Here, in traditionally oriented restaurants, Salt and Pepper shrimp is usually prepared shell on, sometimes with head included; however, I prefer the textural subtleties of a more “western-friendly” version of the dish, and peel the shrimps.
Two quarts frying oil (peanut oil is excellent)
8 oz. Deveined, peeled shrimp. (30-40 count per pound works well)
1/2 med. Yellow onion, sectioned into crescents
4 small green onion, sectioned 2” long. Reserved greenest portion for garnish.
1 egg white.
4 Tab cornstarch (1/3 cup)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tab peanut oil for stir frying
Salt and pepper for onions.
Fresh chili or Jalepeno, sliced diagonally (optional)
In a bowl, combine cornstarch pepper and salt well. Combine green and yellow onion in a bowl and season with a few dashes of salt and pepper to taste.
In a deep fryer or large pot Heat frying oil to 375°. Dry shrimp with paper towels. Whip egg white lightly and add shrimp, mixing well. When oil is to temperature, pick shrimp out of the egg white, shake off excess egg, and place in cornstarch mixture. Toss and roll the shrimp to coat evenly; shake off excess starch in colander or by hand and carefully place in oil; use bamboo chopsticks to separate and turn shrimp. Cook just until shrimp curl and firm up; quickly remove and drain. Heat wok to hot and add 2 tablespoons peanut oil, put in seasoned onions (and chili if using). Stirfry until edges of onion begin to brown. Add back shrimp; fry for 30 seconds or so and remove all with basket strainer. Drain on paper towels, and quickly remove to platter. Garnish with reserved greens and served immediately.