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Stir Fried Shrimp, Eggs and Peas + Stir Fry Secrets

Stir Fried Shrimp, Eggs and Peas

Cooking Chinese for the Olympics! This is the 2nd recipe in the series…see the end for links

Oh…and there’s a contest in the middle of this post!!!

***

Last fall, my parents treated Scott and I to a 10 day group tour around China. Our first stop was Beijing, and first thing I noticed was how clean the city was. I literally could eat off the streets, as there was an entire team of sanitation engineers whose sole job was to scrape gum off the streets and sidewalk. I’m so not kidding – they wore white gloves and could scrape even crusty, 2 week old Bubbalicious in one quick motion.

You could see the entire city was gearing for its big Olympic moment: sleek buildings, sporting stadiums and even beautiful parks were being quickly erected and created almost overnight. There was hardly any traffic for a city of over 17 million and in addition to the gum scrapers, workers were polishing the guard rails that lined the interstate.

But no tricking this smart rat! I knew our tour’s itinerary, including restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and even driving path was carefully planned and regulated by the government. I was half afraid to turn my head around and look out the back window of the tour bus, for fear that the set façade would be replaced by the daily regular.

Well, no matter…I mean, how can I blame Beijing? For if you come to my house for dinner, you’d find last night’s crumbs swept under my rug and mounds of dirty laundry shoved into closets too.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing many of my favorite Chinese dishes, so that you’re not stuck just ordering take out from your local Chinese restaurant. But today, I want to teach you the secrets of a light, flavorful Chinese stir fry.

Ancient Chinese Stir Fry Secrets (at home)

Restaurant kitchens have extremely high powered stoves, flames that jump so high that your eyebrows will singe just standing in the doorway. At home, especially with electric stovetops, we just can’t get that kind of heat. To compensate, you’ve got take the time to let your wok or pan get super hot and the best way to judge whether it’s hot enough is to hold your hand 6 inches over your wok. The moment you start feeling some serious heat, it’s ready. Seriously, though, don’t try to be all macho and stuff, if it’s hot enough for you to say, “hot!” just pull away.

The second trick is to sear your meat or seafood first, remove from the wok, then cook the vegetables, and then returning the meat or seafood back to the wok towards the end of the stir fry. If you don’t, you’ll end up steaming your meat in the vegetable juices instead of frying it. You want each individual ingredient of a stir fry to sing on its own, instead of becoming a soggy, heavy, mish-mash.

The last trick is a tough one. I know it’s a gut reaction to constantly keep poking, prodding and stirring during a stir fry (which is essential in a massively hot restaurant wok), but resist the urge when you’re frying meat or seafood. When you first put your meat in the wok, spread it out so that the pieces are not touching and use all available surface area. Now, step away! Let the meat have a chance to sear. If you keep messing with it, the protein never has a chance to develop that wonderful carmelization and you’ll end up with mushy meat.

In this Stir Fried Shrimp, Eggs and Peas dish, you’ll practice all three of these secrets. You’ll let the oil heat up before adding the shrimp, spread out the shrimp so that they don’t touch and just let it sear. Once cooked, you’ll remove the shrimp and add it back in when the eggs are almost set. This will give you a light/firm/crisp/crunch/springy shrimp – a sure sign that you’ve cooked the shrimp properly.

STOP! I need a word or two that elegantly describes the texture of perfectly cooked, fresh shrimp. It’s the feeling in your mouth when you bite into the shrimp – “light/firm/crisp/crunch/springy” just doesn’t capture it quite right. There is a Chinese word for it (to not give Chinese speaking advantage on this contest, I’m not going to tell what that word is) – but I can’t find the right English words to match. The first person to come up with the best word or phrase wins a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com!!

I always have a bag of frozen peas/carrots (and in this case just peas), some frozen shrimp and eggs on hand. When I’m cooking Chinese food and need just one more dish to make the meal complete, this is one of my go-to dishes.

In this recipe for Stir Fried Shrimp, Eggs and Peas, I’ve chosen to fry the chilies and garlic separate from the eggs and shrimp, using it as a topping. This is because my kids are eating this dish too – and they can pick the parts where the chilies are not touching.

I know you’ve been taught not to burn garlic, as it can be bitter and ruin the entire dish. But in this case, the garlic is fried to a crisp – it provides a wonderful texture. Since it’s a TOPPING – and not the base of the dish (i.e. I’m not cooking the garlic first and layering ingredients/flavors on top of the garlic) – the very slight bitterness is a welcome, especially nestled against the chili pepper’s sweet heat.

Stir Fried Shrimp, Eggs and Peas

1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined and patted very, very dry
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 large mild chili (anaheim, Hungarian wax), thinly sliced
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
cooking oil

in a bowl, combine shrimp, salt, pepper, cornstarch and sesame oil, let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to marinate.

In a wok or large saute pan over high heat, add 1 tablespoon cooking oil, swirling to coat the wok. When the oil is very hot (hold your hand 6″ above the wok surface), add the shrimp (the shrimp should sizzle loudly upon contact) and spread out around the cooking surface. Let fry, untouched for 1 minute.

Flip shrimp and fry for an additional minute, or until cooked through. Remove the shrimp from wok to a plate, leaving as much cooking oil in the wok as possible.

Keep the heat on high, add the garlic and sliced chilies and fry until fragrant and the garlic is crispy, about 30 seconds. Remove from wok to a small dish and wipe the wok clean with paper towels. Return the wok to high heat and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. When the oil is hot (a drop of egg should sizzle immediately), pour in the eggs and gently stir for 1 minute, until almost set but still a little runny in the middle. Season the egg with salt and add the shrimp and the peas to the wok and stir to mix well until the eggs are completely cooked through. Dish to serving plate and top with the fried garlic and chilies.

***

Other great Chinese dishes

Sesame Shrimp Sesame Shrimp with Honey Mustard Sauce
Firecracker Shrimp Shrimp and Mango Firecrackers

Beijing Noodles Ground Beef with Beijing Sauce Over Noodles

Pan Fried Shrimp and Pork Postickers Pan Fried Shrimp and Pork Potstickers

Xiao Long Bao Xiao Long Bao – Steamed Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Wonton Noodle Soup Wonton Noodle Soup

Comments 81

  1. Maple

    Here’s my entry into your contest: perfectly cooked shrimp have a “bouncy bite.” :)

  2. Carol

    i think the word can be…. snap or snap-tender….

    love your website, always beautiful and fantabulous food,recipies, and the personal stories make it great entertainment!!

  3. Victoria

    Yum! I’ve made this twice this week so far. It’s so simple and so tasty.

  4. JustNancy

    Oh, Dang!
    Can I attempt to “sound out” (phonetically) the word in Mandarin?
    It would be: “tsuay” (all-one-syllable) with a downward accent and it means all those adjectives all in one – crispy, bouncy, firm…

    I guess that doesn’t help you much.
    I wish there was a single English word because it’s such a wonderful word in Chinese!

  5. chzplz

    Hi Jaden – the Shrimp/eggs/peas recipe calls for two portions of salt, but only one gets used in the recipe…

    ***
    JADEN: eeps! fixed now!

  6. John

    I’m not sure if you’d found your word yet, but when I think of perfectly cooked shrimp, the word tension comes to mind. You want a tender tension. You want that bounce/resistance to your bite but still tender enough that one fast bite is all that is needed instead like an overdone steak or anything over done as a matter a fact. Tender tension… hmmm, I”ll have to think it over.

  7. Ron Merlin

    For the contest I think the right word for the shrimp is…… Crispringy……

    Crispy but still with some body that springs back when you bite into it…. Crispringy!

    I’m a newby but have a blog also: htt://themerlinmenu.blogspot.com

  8. Pufferfish

    How about “turgid”?

    It works for that tense, slight-pressure feeling of a properly cooked shrimp.

    And it fits with the “steamy kitchen” idea!

  9. Korena

    I made this for myself last night over brown rice (minus the chili because I didn’t have any), and it was FANTASTIC. And SO EASY. My roommate goes, “mmm, smells like Chinese food!” and I was all, “that’s ’cause it IS Chinese food!” Thanks for the recipe (and all the others — just reading makes my mouth water!).

  10. John

    I know this makes me sound like I should be seeing a shrink every week, but I’ve been wondering about the Chinese word for perfectly done shrimp. How long has it been? :) But I think I’ve arrived at the word. I blurted it out in the middle of paying for my groceries when I was buying Scallops yesterday. I believe is the word or short phrase is “nun nun de.” The English word tender comes close to the Chinese meaning, but the word also describes the popping sensation when bitten into, not the chewiness when seafood is overcooked. Actually there isn’t a word for that pop feeling in English. A friend over coffee said perhaps crisp, but crisp refers more to a sound, such as uncooked vegetables such as snow peas or an apple. I think this only shows that there aren’t enough people in the English world that has eaten perfectly cooked shrimp. ~sad~ Actually I’ve been thinking it over, there aren’t too many restaurants that have perfect shrimps, the Shicuan place near my home where a friend and I frequent, has really chewy shrimp. Hmmmm….
    So the perfect word… unless someone adds it to the English dictionary,doesn’t quite exist in the English language. Well, I go searching it on my free time when I’m bored, or perhaps someone has found the word already?

  11. James

    The stir-fry secrets are great but the secret I am really looking for is the recipe for the red sweet and sour sauce that you find at most Chinese restaurants. You know, the clear bright red sauce with no fruits or veg swimming in it. Every time we visit our local Chinese eatery I beg the owner for the secret and always, he just smiles and walks away. I am thinking that it is a closely guarded family secret that varies from restaurant to restaurant. I have tried many different recipes found on the web but none come close in look or flavor. Any tips?

  12. irena

    The first word that popped into my head was ‘Que'; pronounced ‘Q’ in second tense. (I only speak mandarin, so that would be the upward stroke tense) Or in the flat no tense or tense with a dot above the buh puh muh characters… am I making any sense here? I don’t think there is an English equivalant of the word (or we may just be way too chinese to know it), but it pretty much incorporates the meaning of a satisfying firmness yet yielding feeling and bounce in a bite of cooked to perfection whatever you made piece. Anyways, yummy yummy! Thanks for yet another great dish! Let us know what you were thinking when your done with your contest! =]

  13. Gourmet Mama

    This would go great with rice, as Korena found out. Although I think this recipe is similar to some variations of the Chinese fried rice, just without the rice. The dish looks amazing though.

    Here’s a suggestion: Tenderlicious. :)

  14. towel rail

    These great tips should come in the book!That picture is killing me … Now you need to replenish the supply of shrimp from me!

  15. Lose Fat

    I’m always look for more lunch/dinner ideas to help me stay lean and I’ll certainly try your stir fry idea with Shrimp – looks amazing! Do you ever serve something like this with brown rice?

  16. Jay_L

    If your still looking for a description for shrimp, how about this?

    A splendor of crisps with buoyant springy ruptures.
    -or-
    An invigorating rift of bursting gushes of lusty plumpness.

  17. Byron

    AL DENTE. Every cook understands this expression.

    In cooking, the Italian expression al dente ( /ælˈdɛnteɪ/; Italian: [al ˈdɛnte]) describes pasta and (less commonly) rice or beans that have been cooked so as to be firm but not hard. “Al dente” also describes vegetables that are cooked to the “tender crisp” phase – still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. Keeping the pasta firm is especially important in baked or “al forno” pasta dishes, where the pasta is cooked twice. The term “al dente” comes from Italian and means “to the tooth” or “to the bite”, referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness.

  18. Sarah

    The word for cooked shrimp is…. Pops…. They pop in your mouth when cooked properly….

  19. Robin

    This was absolutely delicious. And it was cheap and easy to boot! It’s about 400 calories per serving if you split evenly between two people, so I’d call it healthy too.

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