Before we talk about the Kung Pao Shrimp recipe that I wrote for Craftzine, let’s talk about capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers. It’s what gives them spice, flavor and it’s what your fingers will be covered in after you cut or crush chili peppers for this recipe. Red chilies might sound exotic but they’re a pretty common ingredient in a lot of Mexican and Asian dishes: You can buy them in the produce section of your grocery store (they are dried chilies but usually live near the fresh chili peppers since a lot of recipes call for both).
Now, capsaicin is the reason you should not touch your eyes after handling chili peppers, even if you have washed your hands several times over the course of cooking. You should be especially cautious if you, say, wear contact lenses because you’re almost 50% legally blind and rely on them for your vision.
I only tell you this to prevent you from making the same mistakes I do. Wear gloves when you’re handling the red chilies that this recipe calls for. If you don’t have food service gloves on hand, wrap your hands in plastic wrap. If you forget this step altogether, rinse your hands with milk and lemon when you’re finished handling the peppers – it will help neutralize thecapsaicin and minimize pain if and when you do touch your eyes or face.
Now that my PSA is over, let’s talk about how delicious this recipe is. I created it after taking a cooking class at the Chopping Block that focused on spicy foods. I love it because we all think of Chinese food as being a greasy, fattening calorie bomb. This dish is a lot lighter than anything you’d get at a restaurant.
To keep those added calories, fat grams and unwanted flavors off your plate, take Kung Pao shrimp back to its roots with a little spice and the savory flavor you crave from your favorite Asian dish. While some versions of this dish use chicken or other types of seafood, shrimp are an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and selenium. Small but mighty, shrimp give you a lot of nutritional value and their crisp texture pairs wonderfully with this spicy sauce.
Kung Pao Shrimp
What You Need:
2 tablespoons stock (use chicken, fish or vegetable – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 dried red chilies, whole (optional – omit if you like a milder flavor)
2 dried red chilies, crushed
¼ cup roasted peanuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, freshly grated
Steamed jasmine rice
To make the sauce, combine the stock, mirin, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt and sesame oil. Set aside for later use. In another small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water. Set aside.
Head a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the grapeseed oil. Make sure the pan is nice and hot before you add the oil; this will help create a nice and hot surface to sauté.
Sauté the shrimp, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook at this point; you’ll want to cook until they are no longer opaque and lightly caramelized.
Add the chilies, peanuts, garlic, scallion and ginger. Stir thoroughly until garlic and ginger are aromatic, for about 1 minute.
Stir cornstarch mixture to make sure that it is completely dissolved and well combined. Add sauce and cornstarch mixture to the sauté pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute. Stir this for about 5 minutes or until shrimp is evenly coated with sauce.
Serve over your favorite rice. Jasmine rice is great with this, as its longer, fluffy grains do a nice job absorbing some of the heat from the sauce, but if you like a different variety, you can substitute your favorite.