Shrimp and Zucchini Stirfry with Crispy Basil

New friend, Deb Puchalla, who is Editor in Chief of Martha Stewart Living Magazine, is hosting a Zukes and Cukes party and this is what I’m bringing!

Instead of just stirring in basil leaves at the end like I normally do, this time I deep fried the basil leaves to create airy-light, brittle-crisp basil that elevates this dish to another level.

Describing Perfectly Cooked Shrimp

Previously, I asked you guys to describe the TEXTURE of perfectly cooked shrimp. In Cantonese, my Mom uses the phrase that’s pronounced “song chuy,” Japanese “puri-puri,” Singaporeans “QQ.”

There’s no English equivalent. Bummer.

The texture of perfectly cooked pasta is “al dente,” and we need to come up with a concise way to describe the texture/mouthfeel of perfectly cooked shrimp.

Here are my favorite entries:

Jules: “I always describe the best prawns – esp in eg a CKT [sorry, Char Kway Teow] – as “bursty”. As in, they just burst in your mouth with luscious crunchy sweetness of juices.”

Amanda: “I always thing of shrimp as “bursty” with a crisp exterior – a texture similar to grapefruit, but with a crisp edge.”

Ed: “I was thinking that perfectly cooked shrimp are “bubble-crunchy”, like if one were to bite into a firm-enough orange. In Japanese, the word that best fits this texture is ‘puri-puri'”

Mia: “It sounds pretty unappetizing, but the word I thought of was “turgid,” which describes something that is swollen or distended. The shrimp should be cooked such that the outside feels like it is pulled taut over the juicy, delicious, inner flesh…but, um, succulent seems to be the more appealing descriptor.”

Spencer: “I believe the Chinese saying Jaden is referring to roughly translates to “Playfully Dances in the mouth” or something to that effect. There is no equivalent in English which made this rather challenging.I was going to suggest succulent as well, but Betty beat me to the punch so my alternate suggestion is “voluptuously supple”, but from a layman’s perspective, most would relate better with “crunchy and juicy texture.”

Maple: “Perfectly cooked shrimp have a bouncy bite.”

JustNancy: “It would be: “tsuay” (all-one-syllable) with a downward accent and it means all those adjectives all in one – crispy, bouncy, firm…”

Macsarcule: “I’m goin’ for buoyantly crisp, or tenderly springy.”

Keropokman: “for the word, i dunno if it’s a word, it’s a letter that I would use. “Q”. or sometimes use it in double “QQ”. hehe… we use that at home.”

And the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is Maple’s “Perfectly cooked shrimp have a bouncy bite” and I’ll add the word “bursty” to that:

Perfectly cooked shrimp should have a bursty, bouncy bite.

What do you guys think? Any more ideas to describe the texture of perfectly cooked shrimp?


How to prepare shrimp for that bursty, bouncy bite

My Mom has always taught me to brine the shrimp to get that perfect texture.

Shrimp prepShrimp prep
Brine the peeled shrimp in 1 tsp kosher salt, 3 cups water and 1 cup iceDrain, pat very dry on paper towels
Shrimp prepShrimp prep
Marinate shrimp in pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon sesame oilGet your wok or pan super-hot. You want the shrimp to instantly sizzle upon contact. Keep shrimp in one layer, let fry untouched 1 minute to get nice sear and carmelization. Don’t touch it! Leave it alone.
Shrimp prepTo read other stir-fry secrets, see my post on Chinese Stirfry Shrimp, Peas and Eggs.
Flip and let the other side fry for an additional 1 minute. Remove shrimp, keeping as much oil in wok as possible and continue with stirfry. You’ll add the shrimp back in later.


How to deep fry basil

Start with about 1 loosely packed cup of basil leaves. After washing your basil, run them through your salad spinner to fling some of the surface water off. Then blot them on layers of paper towels to further dry the leaves. This is an important step, as water droplets + hot oil will make the oil splatter.

In a wok, deep fryer, or whatever cooking vessel you use (the smaller diameter of pot you use, the less oil you’ll need but then you can only do a few leaves at a time) heat about 2 inches of cooking oil (peanut/canola/veg) to 375F.

Have a splatter screen, tongs and a rack for draining ready. Fair warning – the oil will splatter, so please be careful! Using tongs, carefully add a few basil leaves to the oil. They should crisp up in about 10 seconds. Sccop ’em up and let drain.

The leftover oil is now beautifully infused with basil! Strain any basil bits out, let cool and store. You can use this oil for cooking.

Shrimp and Zucchini Stirfry with Crispy Basil

Shrimp and Zucchini Stirfry with Crispy Basil

For the shrimp:
1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp (tail on or off, up to you)
1 cup ice
3 cups cold water
1 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons cooking oil
fresh chili pepper, sliced
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 large zucchini, sliced
handful of deep fried basil leaves (see above)

For the light sauce: (combine in bowl)
1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Fill a medium bowl with 1teaspoon of salt, ice and water. Add the peeled shrimp and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and pat very dry on paper towels. Empty the bowl, wipe the bowl dry and return the shrimp, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt, sesame oil and cornstarch. Stir to coat the shrimp.

Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the cooking oil, swirling to coat the wok. Add the shrimp and immediately give each shrimp its own space on the wok, so that they aren’t touching. Let fry, untouched for 1 minute. Flip shrimp and let fry for an additional minute, or just cooked through. Remove from wok, leaving as much oil in wok as possible.

You should still have 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in the wok. If not, add more cooking oil. Return the heat to medium-high and let the oil heat up. Add in the chili pepper and garlic and fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add in the zucchini slices and stirfry for 1 minute, tossing every 15 seconds, until zucchini is just barely soft in the middle but still firm on the outer edge.

Pour in the soy/sugar/oil mixture. Toss to coat zucchini. Now add in the cooked shrimp. Toss vigorously until all ingredients and flavors are dancing and jivin’ together.