Sunday, May 18, 2008

My favorite shrimp

A few weeks ago, the Anthropologist and I went out for Chinese food, and I ordered one of my favorite dishes: walnut shrimp. Afterward, doggy bag with leftover shrimp in hand, we went to a friend's house for a party. I wound up forgetting my beloved shrimp in their fridge, and honestly, I was quite upset about it — enough so that later that week, I began my quest to make my own walnut shrimp.

I love recreating Chinese dishes at home. I make a darn good sweet and sour chicken (if I do say so myself!), as well as chow mein and fried shrimp-and- shitaake-filled won tons. So it wasn't too daunting of a task to research the recipe, gather up the ingredients, and put the dish together. In fact, I had a lot of fun with it!

The first step in recreating honey walnut shrimp is making the candied walnuts. This required briefly boiling walnut halves, then sautéing them in a mixture of butter and brown sugar. My tip is to keep a close on them while they are cooking because the sauce burns easily.

Next, the shrimp are coated in a batter of rice flour and egg. I thought the batter was too clumpy and didn't stick too well to the shrimp, even after they were well-patted with a paper towel. Next time, I might just toss the shrimp with a little plain cornstarch before pan-frying them in oil.

Finally comes the sauce, which is what makes the dish. I learned that it's made from a mix of mayonnaise, sweetened condensed milk, and honey. Easy, completely fattening, and amazingly delicious.

On a non-shrimp-related note: Last year, I got The Cook's Canon: 101 Classic Recipes Everyone Should Know from my dad. I'm hoping to cook my way through it, from apple pie to zabaglione (minus any recipes involving pig flesh, which I don't eat), and I'll share my adventures with all of you.

Honey Walnut Shrimp
(gleaned from several web-based recipes)

1/4 c walnuts
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 egg whites
1/3 c rice flour
1/8 c mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

Parboil walnuts for 2 min. Drain. Melt butter in a small pan, then stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Sauté walnuts in butter mixture until golden brown, about 3-4 min. Set aside.

Beat egg white in a small bowl until foamy. Stir in rice flour to create a paste.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a heavy, deep skillet. Dredge shrimp in rice flour batter and fry until golden, about 5 min. Remove and drain on paper towels.

In a serving bowl, combine mayo, honey, and condensed milk. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Sprinkle walnuts on top and serve.

Serves 2.