Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stir Fry Shrimp and Vegetables with Chinese Chili Sauce

The second half of my college years was a formative time in my cooking life. My roommate and I lived off campus in a rented condo and we really got into cooking Chinese stir-fry. This cookbook became our bible and we spent lots of time making stir-fry sauces and chopping vegetables.

The main spicy stir-fry sauce stayed with me in the years after college. I shared it with others who loved it and they even named the sauce after me. It was fun to know that coast to coast people were cooking a recipe with my name on it.

For the past few years, I've been making the sauce again and doing some tweaks on the recipe. After a few years of trials, I'm ready to reveal the 2.0 version.

Let's start with Chinese Chili Sauce:

For the red chili paste, you should start with a bottle of Huy Fong Foods' Chili Garlic Sauce. But there are other options. With the current Sriracha sauce craze, you likely have a bottle of that which you can use. For a twist, I've sometimes added a Thai element by using Thai Kitchen's Red Curry Paste.

In a large bowl mix together the ingredients in the recipe below and set aside.

Chinese Chili Sauce

  • red chili paste - 3/4 - 1 teaspoon (adjust to your taste)
  • soy sauce - 2 tablespoons
  • sherry - 1 tablespoon
  • sugar - 1/2 - 1 teaspoon
  • cornstarch -1 teaspoon 
  • fish sauce - 1 tablespoon (optional)
  • sesame oil - a few drops (optional)
  • water - 1/3 cup

Stir Fry Shrimp and Vegetables

Frozen shrimp can be tricky to work with. Because each shrimp is coated with ice, it's easy to create a runny, tasteless stir-fry. So take the shrimp out of freezer early and allow it to defrost in its bag at room temperature until you can see the ice separating from the shrimp. When that happens, open the bag and pour the shrimp into a colander and rinse with hot water while shaking the colander. I also like to wrap the shrimp in paper towels to draw out any more water.

I cook the shrimp ahead of time to make sure they are done well. I also use a little butter in order get some browning on the outside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat a high-smoke oil (peanut, grape seed, canola, etc.) and an equal amount of butter. Add some minced garlic and then add the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in some lemon juice. Cook shrimp until done with some browning on the outside. Set aside.

The vegetables are next and you should prepare them well ahead of time. You can use any vegetables of your choice. But the following are some of the basics:
  • celery - sliced on the diagonal
  • carrots - sliced
  • broccoli - florets
  • mushrooms - sliced
  • bell pepper - sliced
  • bok choy - quartered
On this particular evening I was using up some Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Add your prepared vegetables to a hot skillet or wok and stir constantly over high heat. As they approach being done, add back in the cooked shrimp and stir to mix. 

Give the sauce another stir because the cornstarch has likely resettled to the bottom. Break up the gooey base by stirring to mix. 

Add the sauce to the stir fry and mix constantly spreading the sauce to allow it to coat everything. 

Feel free to add some peanuts or cashews at this point. 

As you stir, the sauce should add a glisten to everything once it has coated the stir fry. If it seems too gummy, add a bit of water and mix it in. 

Serve as is or over rice.