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EXPRESS LINE

Guess the Secret Ingredient

December 12, 1991|MINNIE BERNARDINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

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Sichuan Shrimp

Hot cooked rice

Steamed or stir-fried broccoli or Chinese pea pods

Tangerines

Next to shrimp with spicy salt (crisp-fried shrimp in shells), Sichuan Shrimp is the most special Chinese shrimp dish I make. One restaurant in Chinatown, Yang Chow, serves it the way I like it--loaded with garlic, extra-crisp, sticky-sweet yet fragrant and tangy with vinegar. You can tell it's their most popular dish because you'll quickly notice the platter of shrimp, shimmering in a coat of golden caramel, on every table. It's so well liked that the restaurant gives its patrons a printed copy of the recipe upon request. They call it Slippery Shrimp.

To my dismay, the recipe didn't produce that familiar great taste. "You need a good strong fire to heat up your wok and get those shrimp to crisp up," the waiter explained. That wasn't the major problem; our shrimp got crisp but the tanginess and sweetness weren't there. After a few more trips of tasting, then testing, we came up with this satisfying formula. (Don't omit the catsup, it was one of the secret ingredients!)

Staples

4 cloves garlic

1 egg

Salt

Cornstarch

Oil

2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons catsup

1/3 cup sugar

White rice, optional

Shopping

1 bunch green onions

1 1/4 pounds shelled uncooked large shrimp or 1 3/4 pounds whole shrimp

1 small bottle sesame oil

1 small bottle chile paste

1 bottle rice wine

Optional Side-Dish Shopping

Broccoli or Chinese pea pods

Tangerines

SICHUAN SHRIMP

1 1/4 pounds shelled uncooked shrimp, deveined

Salt

1 egg white

1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Oil for deep-frying

1 tablespoon chile paste

2 tablespoons rice wine

2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons catsup

1/3 cup sugar

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 green onion, chopped

Season shrimp to taste with salt. Beat egg white lightly in bowl. Place 1/2 cup cornstarch in bowl or pie plate. Dip each shrimp first in egg white then in cornstarch. Place on tray.

Heat oil to 375 degrees in wok over high heat. Drop shrimp, few at time, and deep-fry few seconds until crisp. Remove onto paper towels.

Combine chile paste, 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, rice wine, cider vinegar, catsup and sugar. Remove all but 1 tablespoon oil from wok. Add garlic and saute until tender. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to boil until thickened. Add fried shrimp and toss just to coat with sauce. Mix in sesame oil and green onion. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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