Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice

This is just about one of my favorite fried rice dishes.  And three months ago I had never heard of it.  I went into a Malaysian/Thai restaurant I go to now and then and saw this on the menu.  They had three “salted fish” dishes and this one was recommended by our waiter so I ordered it.  And I was amazed at how delicious and simple it was.  Nothing haute cuisine-ish.  Just delicious taste without being fishy.  So I set out to duplicate this at home since I loved it so much.  I spent weeks researching ingredients and testing things.  And I will tell you I made some dreadful mistakes.  What you see here is the correct recipe with the bugs worked out.

The most important ingredient to mention here is the salted fish.  The dish gets a LOT of flavor from this one ingredient and if you don’t get the right salted fish, it will be a disaster.  Online research was very little help in this area so I had to go out and experiment.

What you see here is the correct ingredient though you might also find it in chunks without the skin.  What I have above is dried, salted Yellow Croaker.  It is the whole fish gutted and then dehydrated.  The meat has the texture of stringy beef jerky and a mellow salty fish taste.  It is not putrid smelling but it does smell like fish.  To use this, you peel the flesh off of the skin which will have (the skin) a firm leathery texture.  After peeling off about a dry measure cup of loose dried meat, you will want to mince it with a sharp knife.

What you see above is your dried, salted fish removed from the skin and minced.  If you can find it without the skin that is fine.  But I love what I have here despite it looking creepy because I know what I have here was made by the staff at this farmers market and therefore fresh and quality controlled.  And when I say it looks creepy – check the image below for what the dried fish looks like flipped over…

So with this ingredient explained and prepared, lets move onto the rest of the pieces.

Here we have day old long grain Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker and then refrigerated overnight.  I wet my hands and broke up the clumps into individual grains of rice to make what you see here. You want the grains as separate as possible before frying.

Above I have everything except for the fried rice sauce.  Starting with the oil and going clockwise, we have vegetable oil, thin slices of chicken tenderloins, 3 eggs beaten, minced garlic, cut snow pea pods, scallions and the flower buds from Chinese chives, green romaine lettuce minced into strips, minced salted fish, frozen vegetable mix and finally our rice in the center.

I get my wok burner very hot and preheat my oil.  But before I start cooking after the oil gets hot, I lower this heat to about 20%.

After the heat is lowered, I toss in my garlic and salted fish.  Gently fry these ingredients.  If you start smelling anything burning, drastically reduce the heat.  This dish is ruined if you burn any part of it.  In making this, my blast furnace of a wok burner is actually a handicap.  I had to be very careful here.  After you fry the fish and garlic for 20 seconds, move them aside and add the eggs and scramble them.

After the eggs are scrambled, add your chicken and start stirring well.  keep the food moving to avoid burning anything.  After this, I add my scallions and chive buds and snow pea pods.  Get the pods coated well with oil.

After the pea pods cook for about 15 seconds, add the rice.  Turn up the burner to about 30-40% and keep cooking.  Again if you even smell the hint of burning, back the heat off.  Dump in the frozen vegetables and the romaine lettuce.  You may be asking yourself what the romaine lettuce is for.  The salted fish is dry.  Mixing this food around here, the romaine will give up its moisture and help steam the fish.  It will make it a little softer so it’s not so much like beef jerky and the romaine also helps keep the moisture well balanced within the rice.  It seems strange but trust me, it works!

Carefully add the fried rice sauce, pouring in a spiral and mix well.  After another 45 seconds or so, remove the wok from the heat.

Move the rice to a large serving bowl.

Once again, without any ceremony or rituals my son does the taste test for me.  He likes this as much as I do.

And here is mine with hot peppers and fish sauce added to season.  I am so happy I was able to reverse engineer this dish to find out what was in it and make it myself.  This is not an especially sweet dish – mostly savory.  And unless you add hot peppers, it’s very mild too.  But what it lacks in peppery heat it more than makes of for in flavor!  Despite being full of salted fish, it does NOT have a fishy flavor at all.  Even people with an aversion to seafood flavors will be able to handle this dish.

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice (serves 6-8 as a main course)


  • 4 dry measure cups of uncooked Jasmine long grain rice
  • 3/4 lb thin chicken filets cut into strips
  • 1 dry measure cup minced salted dried fish
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 large eggs beaten
  • 1 cup snow pea pods cut in half
  • 1 cup scallions
  • 3 tablespoons chinese chive flower buds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup romain lettuce greens minced into small strips
  • 3/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • Cook the 4 cups of Jasmine rice the day before and refrigerate overnight
  • Wet hands and break the rice into individual grains.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl well
  • Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a wok.
  • When the oil starts to smoke, lower the heat by 70% and add the garlic and dried fish.
  • Fry gently, stirring carefully as not to break up the pieces of fish.
  • Move the garlic and fish up the side of the wok some and pour in the eggs
  • Scramble the eggs
  • Add the chicken and stir well with the other ingredients until the chicken starts turning opaque.
  • Add the snow pea pods and stir, frying gently.
  • Add the chive buds and scallions.  Stir well.
  • Increase the heat to 40%
  • Add the rice and if needed, add a little more oil to the center of the wok.  Stir well.
  • Add the frozen vegetables and the lettuce strips and mix well.
  • Pour in the fried rice sauce carefully in a spiral and stir well.
  • Cook another 45 seconds and remove from heat.
  • Put into a large bowl and serve.
  • Provide chopped peppers and fish sauce as desired.




Kung Pao Chicken

This is a common dish in any Chinese restaurant.  It was my favorite Chinese dish as a teenager.  As a child, the only Chinese dish I ever tasted was sweet and sour chicken because my mother and father loved it.  As I got older I realized there was far better cuisine to be had.  And in addition to being my first favorite, this dish is still the favorite Chinese dish of a dear childhood friend of mine, Mark Mason.  Mark I am dedicating this post to you!  Mark found this small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant near the University of Maryland when he was a student there that had the BEST Kung Pao Chicken!  I can vouch to this having tasted it myself.  He would stop in this place several times a week to eat, so bad was his craving for Kung Pao Chicken.  Mark still makes pilgrimages to this place now and then even today.

What I am going to present here is the Kung Pao Chicken you will find in a Chinese restaurant in the United States.  The way this dish is made in China is different and that type will not be treated here.  Four ingredients are common to any Kung Pao recipe.  Peanuts, chopped celery, hot peppers (dried or fresh) and onions. The rest of the ingredients will vary.


As with almost any Asian dish – we make our rice first.  I am making 3 cups here because there will be 4 of us eating it.  Ok, so on with the ingredients. One of the most important parts to good Kung Pao dishes are the peanuts.  Because this is a central ingredient we do not want to skimp on quality.  Do NOT buy peanuts that are already salted or roasted.  Especially not salted.  If you have to settle for roasted that is fine but no salt.  But if you can find them, unsalted raw peanuts are far and away the best.


I get my peanuts from the agricultural department at Mississippi State University (I am partial to them because my oldest son is a student there). These are very high quality peanuts  that literally go from the farm to the market and are frozen on the same day they are harvested and shelled.  I have to say I am very pleased with them.  You get flavor and crunch with such a superior product.  The texture of the peanuts are paramount to good Kung Pao!  They will be cooked and pick up their flavor when roasted in the oil with the garlic.


For my example dish here, the ingredients starting from the top right and going clockwise in a circle are:  Peanut oil, chopped celery, 1 quartered medium onion, Kung Pao sauce (recipe below), raw peanuts, chili peppers, raw chicken cut to bite sized pieces, minced garlic and chopped carrots.

There are two common ingredients found in Kung Pao Chicken I did not use here.  Mushrooms and bell peppers.  Now I like mushrooms but unfortunately the other people eating this – my wife and two younger kids – don’t.  So it is omitted for this demonstration.  And while you will find bell peppers often in restaurant Kung Pao dishes too, in my humble opinion bell peppers are one of the most overused vegetables in Chinese and Thai cuisines.  It’s like a cheap filler to boost profits.  Take out expensive meats, put in cheap bell peppers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bell peppers raw.  But cooked, you can taste them every time you burp for DAYS so I don’t like them in my stir fry.  But if you like bell peppers yourself by all means indulge yourself.

Now I have said in many other posts on Asian dishes that you must have extremely high heat.  I will say that it makes a much better tasting dish that gives that wok hei, or breath of the dragon taste.  That slight char flavor that many Chinese dishes are known for.  But I will not sit here and tell you it is a requirement.  You can make a delicious Kung Pao Chicken on your stove in a skillet.


With me, since I have the tools, I fire up my mighty wok burner and set my 18″ wok on it.


After getting the wok and oil very hot, my carrots go in.  They need a little bit longer than the other ingredients to get tender.  Because of the high heat, this whole meal will be done in under 2 minutes and 30 seconds.


I add my chicken and peanuts next.  In the time it takes the chicken to become opaque, the peanuts will more than roast enough in that hot oil.  Look at that smoke – that’s giving us some good flavor.


All the ingredients are added next except for the sauce.  I cook everything here for another 35-45 seconds.  But with the sauce. that gets stirred in quickly and gets thick within seconds because of the starch right before we finish.


And here it is in my serving bowl with sauce and still piping hot.  One secret with the sauce.  Kung Pao sauce – while spicy – is not supposed to have an overpowering flavor.  The taste comes from the peppers, celery and peanuts before the meat.  You want a milder sweet and savory flavor so you will note I dilute mine below.  Most of the flavor in the sauce comes from soy sauce and sugar.  This is a wonderful versatile meal with a very broad appeal.


Here is my own dish plated.  You’ll note I have piled on the sliced chili peppers.  That’s why I used my own dish as the example because my family’s plates are all absent of peppers which makes them technically NOT Kung Pao at all.  But all plates were empty after dinner so I did my job.  Mark, I was thinking of you while we ate this, buddy!  If you try this recipe I’d love your thoughts.


Kung Pao Chicken (serves 4-6)


  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or tenderloins sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 2 cups shelled raw peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 medium onion quartered.
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced.
  • 4-5 cloves garlic pulped and minced.
  • dried or fresh hot chili peppers to taste.
  • 1/16 tsp Chinese white pepper (optional)

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons corn starch.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
  • 3/4 cup cold water


  • Mix the corn starch and water very thoroughly.
  • Add the starch and water slurry to the remaining sauce ingredients and stir well.
  • Heat the peanut oil to smoking in a wok or skillet.
  • Add the carrots and cook for 20 seconds in a wok or slightly longer in  skillet.
  • Add the chicken and peanuts and stir to coat with oil.  Cook for 25-30 seconds in a wok or until chicken is opaque.
  • Add garlic and stir well for 10 seconds.
  • Add onions, celery and mushrooms and stir well.  Cook another 35-45 seconds.
  • Add the hot chilis now unless you have people that will not be eating it.
  • Mix the sauce again with a whisk while pouring into the wok or skillet.
  • Stir well and cook for another 30 seconds until sauce is bubbling.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Serve with fresh steamed white rice.

Thank you!




Salt and Pepper Squid

This is a truly spectacular dish and is one of my top 5 favorite Chinese dishes.  Yes its preparation shares much with that of Salt and Pepper Shrimp.  But there are a few differences and the flavor profile – at least in my humble opinion – is superior with the squid.  I made this last weekend for my family and some close friends and there were no leftovers to be had.  I will share a lot of minute details with you on making this dish to minimize errors and really get this restaurant quality.  If you ever go into any remotely ethnic Chinese restaurant you will see this dish on the menu.  And as I mentioned in the shrimp recipe, you will need very high heat (in excess of 600 degrees F) to properly cook it.  I’ll go into more detail below.

The first thing we want is to start our rice.


I am cooking for 6 people here so I am steaming 4 cups (uncooked) of Japanese Koshihikari rice.  I am using the umami setting which, with this particular model of rice cooker, will mean most of the cooking time will be under pressure.  As you can see, I have 81 minutes before the rice is ready so we have plenty of time here.


Our dredge will be the first thing I make.  Since I have two lbs of fresh squid here (you can use previously frozen squid and thaw it – it won’t affect the flavor profile) I want to be sure I make enough dredge.  Above I have white, green and schichuan peppercorns.  White are in the spice grinder I have at the top, the green in the lower right and Schichuan peppercorns in the lower left.  Not seen are black peppercorns which I also include.  The schichuan peppercorns in the lower left there are an interesting spice so I will go into some detail here.

Schichuan peppercorns or ash berries as they are sometimes called are the husk of a seed of a plant referred to as Chinese coriander.  Oddly enough the seed is normally discarded and it is the husk that is desired for Schichuan cuisine.  If you ever eat one of these husks raw (as I had my guests do) you will notice it tends to numb the taste buds and even make them tingle after a while.  But mixed with other spices, this seasoning is amazing.  I realize it can be hard to find but it is worth the effort.  While it won’t ruin your dish if you don’t have it, you will notice a difference.


So here I have mixed my spices including salt, msg, rice flour, corn starch and the peppercorns well ground.  You will want to mix these dry spices well.  I only put a little dredge in my dredge bowl at a time as unlike egg wash based frying you will not use up lots of your spice dredge as you coat your meats with it.  In fact you will have leftovers that you can save for use later if you want.  So I’ll add about 2/3 cup of powder at a time to my bowl and mix with the meat.  If you have not done so you will want to clean your squid.  With that I bought, most of that work was done and all I had to do was cut the tubes into rings.


And here I have tossed in a bunch of paper towel dried rings and will stir and shake this around some.  The rings are a little tacky and will make only as much dredge as we actually need stick to their surface.  Be sure and shake off excess or you will end up with a bunch of sediment in your oil after cooking which will need to be filtered out if you want to re-use the oil.


And here we see some rings covered with our spice mixture.  Notice that even with the peppercorns, the dredge is still mostly white.


And here we have 2 lbs coated and separated and ready to fry.  Note that I have the tentacles nicely coated in here too.  I love them not only for their texture and flavor but their appearance adds an exotic element to the presentation of the dish as well.


Before cooking we want to get the oil as hot as possible.  I have about 2-2.5 cups of peanut oil here so I will heat this for about two and a half minutes on full blast from my wok burner.  You want the oil extremely hot.  If you look at the flames above, they are going almost up to the top on all sides.  The oil will heat fast.


I will say this now – this dish is impossible to cook on an indoor stove.  You will not get the oil hot enough on a stove with a 50,000 BTU or less burner.  The coating will be soggy and the squid will be like rubber.  Because even if you do get the oil to 600 degrees, the squid will cool the oil too fast and it will take a weaker stove too long to get the oil back up to temp preventing the seasoned dredge from crisping up.

I was watching Andrew Zimmern yesterday on a rerun of Bizarre Foods and he was doing a special on cuisine in Mississippi, focusing on Delta foods.  He ate with a Chinese American family in Mississippi that were making some Chinese, Mississippi Delta fusion dishes on a burner like mine with their wok outside.  And Andrew said “If this doesn’t make you want to get an outdoor wok burner, I don’t know what will!”  I could not agree more!  One thing that was very striking to me was watching a very Chinese looking woman talk about her heritage cuisine with a very Southern Mississippi drawl.  To see it yourself, look on this Travel Channel episode recap.  This has a special place in my heart because my older son is a student at Mississippi State University.  Again, for less than $100 you can have a wok burner like this and make the same kinds of cuisine.


When you drop the squid into the oil it should bubble furiously as mine is above.  It took me about three batches fried separately to cook all the squid.


And here I let it cook for about 75 seconds.  You want the outside to be a light golden color (not brown) when you remove the squid.  Have a bowl lined with paper towels standing by for this.


You will want to have a large slitted spoon or screen scoop with which to quickly remove the squid from the hot oil.  Let the oil sit for about ten seconds each time before adding subsequent batches.  Special thanks goes to my friend Lesley Litt for taking the pictures while I fried these.  Your help was much appreciated and I am glad you enjoyed the squid with us!


What the extreme heat does is makes a slightly crispy, seasoned crust on the outside of the squid pieces that makes them absolutely delectable.


After all the squid has been cooked, I empty almost all the oil out of the wok (except for maybe 2 tablespoons) and get that oil smoking hot.  Then I put the squid back in and toss in the aromatics.


You want to mix the aromatics and squid well, tossing them around for maximum flavor.


Note how high my burner heat is.  This is essential to this dish.


And at the table it is ready for serving with rice.  I normally like to serve a soup before the squid but did not here.  Note the bowl of hot chili paste above.  Since I did not cook this with hot peppers (I had guests here that could not abide the heat) I used that paste spooned over my squid.


I love taking a piece of squid with some garlic and green onions and eat that and follow it with a clump of plain steamed white rice.  The alternating savory and bland flavors play very well together.


With the chili paste, the dish becomes very spicy-hot.  You will see people eating it this way in Chinese restaurants as well.  The hair on the back of my head will get soaked with sweat as I eat this.  But this dish is truly divine and I consider myself blessed that I can cook it at home as well as it is in a restaurant.


And the inevitable result is above.  You will not have any leftovers of the squid.  In fact, you will probably get (as I did) people asking you if there is any more in the kitchen.  I suppose you could cook a lot and have leftovers.  But if you do, do NOT reheat them in a microwave.  You will want to toast them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.  I find that reheating the squid in this way will get it pretty close to the way it was when you scooped it out of the wok.

Without any more pomp and ceremony, here is the recipe.

Salt and Pepper Squid (serves 5-6)


  • 2 lbs squid tubes (or rings) and tentacles (fresh or thawed).
  • 4 cups uncooked white rice.
  • 2-2.5 cups peanut oil.
  • 1 cup rice flour.
  • 3/4 cup corn starch.
  • 4 Tbs finely ground white peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground black peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground green peppercorns (optional – I added this because I happened to have them but they are not really necessary).
  • 2 tsp finely ground Schichuan peppercorns.
  • 3-4 Tbs fine grained sea salt (to taste – I like using 4 Tbs).
  • 2 tsp monosodium glutamate (gourmet powder) (optional but if you omit it, it will noticeably change the flavor of the dish).
  • 1.5 cups chopped green onions.
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh garlic.
  • 1/4 cup sliced Thai chili peppers (optional).


  • Begin to cook the rice in a rice cooker or in a pot.
  • Cut the squid tubes into rings if necessary.
  • Mix the ground peppercorns, salt and msg into the starch and rice flour mix.
  • Mix the squid pieces into the dredge and toss well to coat each piece.
  • Set dredged squid pieces aside.
  • Preheat your oil in the wok and get it extremely hot.
  • Fry the squid in batches.  I find that 2/3 lb of squid at a time works best.
  • Put each batch into a paper towel lined bowl to drain.
  • When all squid is cooked, dump out most of the oil into a container to save the oil to use again later.
  • Put the cooked squid back into the wok with about 2 Tbs oil.
  • Toss in the green onions, garlic and sliced chilis.
  • Toss the squid with the aromatics and mix well.
  • Place in a paper towel lined bowl and serve with steamed white rice.
  • Provide chili paste as desired.
  • Save leftover dredge in a sealed container and refrigerate for use later.

Thank you!


Pork Congee with Thousand Year Old Egg

This is a rather simple dish that is viewed as a comfort breakfast meal by Chinese people.  As strange as this breakfast will look to most people reading this, congee is is as familiar to even a Chinese immigrant in America as Cream of Wheat is to mainstream Americans.  The list of ingredients for this version of the dish is scant.  The difficulty of preparation is low if the rice is cooked in a pot and nil if you have a rice cooker.

As a base dish, congee is basically rice that’s cooked in a much higher volume of water than one normally would for dinner rice.  It’s basically cream of rice cereal without the cream (though you are certainly entitled to prepare congee with cream and sugar to eat it that way as well).  So if you normally use 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of dry measure rice, you will use 8 cups of water with congee.  If you cook this in a pot, use that ratio.  If you have a smart rice cooker, it is as simple as choosing the Porridge setting.


The cooker will have measurement lines inside that tell how much water to add for however many cups of rice you have.  Set to porridge and then push the start button.  I prefer to use Japanese rice for my congee but use whatever rice suits your fancy.  There are no rules here.

Now one of the more interesting ingredients to this is the preserved duck egg.  Also known as the thousand year old egg, or century egg or even millennium egg.


You can buy them at most large Asian markets.  They come in a 6 pack and are normally individually wrapped within.  These are duck eggs.  The existence of these eggs comes from a desire to preserve the eggs before the advent of refrigeration in China.  The method of preservation is simple.  The fresh eggs are buried in ash clay and the clay is allowed to harden.  They then coat the outside with straw or grass and the eggs age for 90+ days.  During that time the whites of the eggs turn dark amber and the yolk turns anywhere from grayish yellow to blackish green.  A sort of controlled fermentation takes place.  Freshly peeled, the eggs are usually black or dark brown.


It looks like a stunning onyx jewel of the orient.  And to those that love these, it IS!


Cut in half, you can see that the whites are actually dark amber as I mentioned above.  This particular egg has a black yolk.  The flavor is a lot like a strong European cheese.  The odor is like a ripe cheese with a hint of ammonia.


I have diced up two eggs here and as you can see, one of them has yellow in the yolk while the other is black.  But the color doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much, if at all.


So the dish waits for the porridge to be done cooking before we can continue.


I like to stir fry some Chinese chives but scallions are also popular additions to this cereal.


The rice congee is spooned over the thousand year old egg slices and topped with the stir fried chives.  Then the top layer of rice is gently stirred to mix in the chives.  The next ingredient is one that really intrigued me when I first learned of it.  If you do searches on congee on the web you will see frequent references to “dried pork” but no pictures (at least none that I could ever find).  What they are referring to is below.  It is shredded pork seasoned with soy sauce and sugar that is completely desiccated.  It has the texture of cotton candy but a lot more savory.


The container this pork comes out of is there to the left in the picture above.  Again, a product of your local Asian supermarket.  They come in different darkness levels which equate to varying flavor strengths.  What you see above is about the medium.


And there it is ready to eat.  Note that Congee can be used any way you like.  You can make it cream of rice cereal with the addition of some milk and sugar if you want.  Or eat them like grits.  It is a versatile dish with as many ways to eat it as there are people who do the eating.  My daughter ate the other half of the congee that I prepared in my rice cooker.  She put honey and a tablespoon of cream in hers 😉


So I will provide the rather simple recipe below.  Note that because of the high water content, one cup of precooked rice will make a LOT of congee.

Pork Congee with Thousand Year Old Egg (serves 1-2)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice.
  • 1-2 preserved duck eggs (Century eggs) sliced into wedges.
  • 3 Tbs chopped Chinese chives or scallions.
  • 1 cup dried shredded pork.
  • Fresh ground Chinese white pepper to taste.


  • Cook rice with 8 times the same volume of water or follow directions on your rice cooker for the porridge setting.
  • Arrange century egg pieces in a bowl.
  • Add hot congee to cover the eggs.
  • Top with Chinese chives or scallions and stir a little.
  • Top with dried pork
  • Pepper as needed
  • Serve

Thank you for reading!




Salt and Pepper Shrimp

The dish I am about to share with you is one of my personal favorites.  I love it cooked using squid or shrimp (I will provide a separate article with it cooked using squid with more pictures of all the steps).  Though I will say the meal looks more exotic with the rings and tentacles of small squid than the familiar grub-like form of cleaned shrimp tails.  Salt and Pepper Shrimp is a Cantonese dish (Cantonese food tries to highlight the actual flavor of the food rather than sauces).  It is often ordered in a restaurant by a group of people in addition to a few other meals and shared.  My own love for this comes from eating very savory pieces of shrimp between mouthfuls of hot, steamed, white rice.  That extra savory vs bland rice trade-off is hard to explain to most people.  To me it can be compared to eating the crust in a chicken pot pie.  You love the chicken and gravy – but that bland tasting crust with the gravy on it is irresistible.  When I pick up a shrimp with a piece of green onion and maybe a section of hot chili pepper with chopsticks, my first instinct after I start chewing it is to take a clump of steamed rice from my rice bowl and follow that shrimp with it.  This is even a tradition with Japanese cuisine.  They enjoy food that plays well with plain rice.  That means sometimes overly salty or savory food is presented that will be eaten with or alongside rice.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp needs to be cooked in a wok over extremely high heat.  This is another one of those dishes you can’t cook on Momma’s stove.  Oh you can do it I am sure, but the outside will be somewhat soggy unless you further toast it which, to my thinking, will dry it out too much. As I have said before in my Tools of an Asian Cook article, the low cost of these high heat burners (under $100) makes one worth investing in.


Above, starting from the left we have minced garlic with sliced red and green Thai chilis (fresh from my garden I might add), about 1 lb of cleaned, shelled and deveined shrimp, my dredge (whose ingredients I will share with you at the bottom of this article) and sliced green onions/scallions.  A quick word on the dredge, by the way.  My recipe uses monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is called “gourmet powder” in Chinese circles.  It markedly affects the flavor of the food, making it more pronounced.  While the authentic recipe does call for it, I do realize that some people may have a reaction or aversion to it.  If you decide to make it like I do and include the MSG, please make sure your guests know there will be MSG in the dish.  This will save some possible embarrassment later.

Now I want to cover some differences in how the shrimp get fried when making this the Chinese way as opposed to American frying.  First of all – we use no egg.  There will be no egg or buttermilk (it won’t need it).  And the shrimp has to be rinsed and then pat dry with paper towels so that it is tacky and not wet.  Note that in China this dish is often cooked with the shells left on.  The high heat of the oil breaks down the cuticle of the shell and makes it easier to chew and digest.  But in this article we will make ours sans shells. (though I encourage you to try it the other way if you get adventurous).


Once the shrimp are tacky/sticky to the fingers, it is time to dredge them.  I like to do this a few at a time so that they all get well covered.  You will notice in my picture that I have left the tail shells on.  This gives people that can’t or won’t use chopsticks the ability to eat the shrimp as a finger food.  In addition it looks nicer but you can make yours any way you want in your kitchen.


After you’ve dredged them all, gently shake off any excess dredge (you want them to just have a dusting on them and not look like those baby powdered Donettes we all ate as kids).  Now for frying we want to do them in batches.  Do not try and fry them all at once.  I will use a 14″ Mandarin wok which is smaller and will use less oil than my Cantonese wok.


This particular wok is one I no longer have.  If you look at my Tools of an Asian Cook article, you will see my new wok which is constructed entirely of metal.  But for what I am demonstrating here right now, that is irrelevant.  The first thing we want to do here is light the wok burner and turn the heat all the way up.  We will need it at full power for this.  After it sits on that heat for about 20 seconds, put about 1.5-2″ of peanut oil in it and wait about 30-40 seconds.  You want the oil very hot.  When you see it start to smoke, you can test the heat with one shrimp.  Be very careful here as with the high temperatures you will be cooking with, the oil can catch fire.  Have something nearby to cover the wok to choke off the fire if that happens.  Do NOT put ANY water into the hot wok with oil!


As you can see, mine is now hot enough.  So I add enough shrimp so that all the pieces are in the hot oil.  Do not add more than that.  If it takes 5-6 batches, the effort will be well worth it.


The oil above is VERY hot.  These shrimp will be done in under 45 seconds.  When they start to turn a golden color, it is time to take them out.  Do not let them get brown,


A nice light golden color is what we are looking for.  As you take each batch out, drain them on paper towels and put the next batch in.  Repeat until all your shrimp are cooked this way.

When the shrimp are all done, pour out most of the oil (all but about 1 tablespoon) into a container for use later (I often use a clean coffee can here) and lower the heat to about 50%.  Then dump all the aromatics in the wok and stir fry them until the garlic starts to get crispy.  Then remove all of that and drain on paper towels.  I like to then toss the aromatics in with the Shrimp as seen below.


At this point the shrimp are ready for serving.  I like to give each diner a bowl of freshly steamed white rice to accompany this meal.



This is such an inviting dish and once you know what this tastes like – your mouth will water looking at the above image just like mine does.  The smells are outrageous as well.


Now leave me to my repast, if you please…

Recipe is below:

Salt and Pepper Shrimp Recipe (serves 2-4 depending on if it is a side or a main dish).

  • Steamed Japanese or Jasmine rice – enough for everyone to have at least one bowl full.
  • 1 lb of peeled, deveined medium sized shrimp.
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced.
  • 3 scallions cut into 1/4″ slices.
  • Sliced chili peppers to taste.  Note you can use any chili peppers for this.  I prefer my Thai chilis.
  • About 2-2.5 cups peanut oil.

Ingredients for the Dredge

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1-1.5 Tbs finely ground sea salt
  • 2 Tbs fresh ground white Chinese peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs fresh ground black peppercorns
  • About 12 fresh ground Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Monosodium Glutamate (optional but needed if you want optimal flavor.  I do understand some people cannot abide it which is why it is optional).


  • Put rice on to steam in whatever you plan to cook it in.  A rice cooker is preferred.
  • Put all the peppercorns (white, black and Sichuan) into a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
  • Grind them all to a fine powder.
  • Mix all ingredients for the dredge completely.
  • Clean and devein shrimp (if necessary).  Note that I prefer to buy the shrimp with shells on and freeze the shells after I remove them for making shrimp stock after I get about 2 lbs worth saved up.
  • Rinse and pat all shrimp dry with paper towels.  We want the shrimp dry enough so that the surface is tacky.
  • Dredge the shrimp in the spiced flour mix.
  • Ignite your wok burner and turn up to full power.
  • Preheat a 14″ wok for 30 seconds before adding the peanut oil.
  • Heat the oil up another 30-40 seconds until it starts to smoke.
  • Fry the shrimp in batches – at this high heat it should take less than 45 seconds to fully cook each batch.  They should be golden (not brown) on the surface.
  • Remove each batch and drain on paper towels.
  • When all shrimp are done, pour out all but about 1 Tbs of oil into a container to save for later.
  • Cut the heat on the burner by 50%.
  • Fry all aromatics until the garlic is golden and crispy.  For best results I have found that cooking the garlic first works best.  Then cook the remaining ingredients for maybe 10 seconds in whatever oil is left over from cooking the garlic.
  • Drain the aromatics on paper towels.
  • Toss the shrimp with the aromatics and serve immediately.
  • To serve this as it is done traditionally, you will want to present the shrimp on a large plate with a substrate of large fresh lettuce leaves (lettuce absorbs oil) and serve with spicy-hot chili paste in oil.
  • Provide steamed white rice to all diners to accompany the shrimp.

Thank you for your patronage!