BACK TO MAIN RECIPE PAGE

Win Books - Book Club Buzz

Novel Noshes
Book Clubs Recommend
Subscribe to Newsletter

About Kitchen Chinese

Reading Group Guide

Ann Mah's Guest Author Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 FEATURED AUTHOR RECIPE

Ann Mah's
Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Herb Salad




KITCHEN CHINESE


I grew up in a Chinese-American home where we ate Chinese food every day. By the time I moved to China as an adult, it no longer had the power to thrill me. Like Isabelle, the main character in Kitchen Chinese, I thought I knew everything about Chinese cuisine.

Living in Beijing for four years was a revelation of different dishes, flavors, spices, and textures. I discovered a world beyond my own narrow experience, an enormous country divided into different regions, each with its own unique and vibrant cuisine. I ate with an open heart, and was rewarded by a greater understanding of an ancient and diverse country, and a greater acceptance of my own ethnic identity – experiences that formed the foundation of my novel.

Still, though I love to cook, I never cooked Chinese food at home. That is, not until a couple of years ago when I left Beijing and moved to Paris. Somewhere amid the gracious sweep of Hausmannian buildings, with my cravings for unpasteurized cheese and red wine finally satisfied, I began to yearn for something else… something spicy.

My dad gave me the recipe below – he’s a wonderful, creative cook who has been making these salt and pepper shrimp since I was a kid. Though in the book I imagine Isabelle’s mother making this dish as part of a multi-course Chinese feast, I like to serve the shrimp as a first course, pairing them with a leafy herb salad. Together the two form an east-meets-west combination, a fusion of two cultures – sort of like Isabelle, and sort of like me, too.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Herb Salad

Makes 4 servings

For the salad

3 cups arugula or mixed salad greens, washed and spun dry
1 cup mixed fresh leafy herbs (such as cilantro, basil, and mint) washed and spun dry, the leaves removed from stems (and stems discarded)
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the shrimp

1 pound large uncooked shrimp (about 12), peeled, deveined, cleaned and patted dry
2 tablespoons salt-sugar-pepper mixture (see recipe below)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
¼ cup minced green onions
2-3 tablespoons dry cocktail sherry (pale)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

1.  To make the salad:  Toss arugula or salad greens with the leafy herbs.  Add the vinegar and oils, toss, and distribute evenly to four salad plates. 

2.  To make the shrimp:  Toss the shrimp with the salt-sugar-pepper mixture in a medium bowl, and set aside.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a wok or sauté pan on medium-high heat until smoking.  Add shrimp to the hot pan.

3.  As the shrimp cook, sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.  Add more oil if pan becomes too dry. Turn the shrimp when they turn pink, about 1½ minutes, and add remaining tablespoon of cornstarch.  The cooking process only takes a few minutes.

4.  When the shrimp have just turned pink, add the minced garlic and toss. Add the green onions and toss. Add just enough sherry to create a sauce that barely coats the shrimp. Remove from heat. Add the pine nuts.

5.  Place 3 shrimp with sauce on top of greens on each plate.  Serve immediately.

Salt-Sugar-Pepper Mixture

Makes about ½ cup

Note:  This is a master batch for your spice cabinet. You can increase the quantities to make more and store it in a jar.

2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons ground black pepper

Combine ingredients.  Store in a tightly covered jar.