The menu at Tian Di Yi Jia, a two-year-old Beijing restaurant that specializes in imperial cuisine, depends on extraordinarily expensive or rare ingredients like shark's fin and abalone. But some of the dishes are simple and delicious, such as these fiery Sichuan shrimp. The Sichuanese typically use small freshwater shrimp, frying them whole with coriander, Sichuan peppercorns and lots of hot dried chiles until the shells become crispy and very, very spicy while the flesh remains delicate and sweet. Foo shifts the balance of flavors in this recipe, adding far more shrimp. If you can find freshwater shrimp in the shell, pop the whole fried thing into your mouth—but take care not to eat those peppers.
Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips
1/3 cup vodka
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
10 dried red chiles
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 3/4 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 scallions, white parts only, coarsely chopped
How to Make It
In a small bowl, stir the vodka with the soy sauce, ketchup and vinegar. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the chiles, ginger and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry over high heat until the chiles and peppercorns darken and the ginger starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 10 seconds. Add the shrimp, season lightly with salt and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and slowly add the vodka sauce. Using a long match, carefully light the sauce. Return the skillet to the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring. Add the scallions; serve.
Tocai from Italy's Friuli region, which borders both Austria and Slovenia, has both the aromatic complexity and succulent fruit needed to pair well with the herbal spice of the Sichuan peppercorns in this dishand the wines remain underpriced for the quality they offer.
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