A while back I came across a cookbook called The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. When I first saw the title, my snobbiness took over and I refused to look into it further.
But then I came across the cookbook again, and it got me thinking about the whole idea of Chinese takeout. I don’t do takeout of any kind of food, but if I did, it would be Chinese. I love all of the vegetables and the bean sprouts and the noodles, especially! And who doesn’t love egg rolls!!! Plus, you get it in those adorable little boxes with the handles.
In the U.S., really all we know about Chinese food, at least in my experience, is from little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants that serve Americanized versions of Chinese food. You know, the breaded, deep-fried everything served with gloppy sauces that all seem to taste the same. (I even had an MSG reaction at one of these restaurants.)
But the thing is, a lot of this food is really good, especially if you know what to order. And until you go to a real Chinatown and have dim sum, like Chinese steamed buns, or happen to have a mother who cooks authentic Chinese, it’s all you know as an American. Just like we all used to think that Italian food was really all about lasagna and spaghetti.
So I decided to buy this cookbook after all, and I’m glad I did. It’s been fun looking over recipes like Kung Pao Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, Chop Suey, and Egg Foo Young. Remember all of those?!!!
But the first one I decided to make out of the cookbook was Sweet Chili Shrimp because I’d just purchased a pound of beautiful shrimp.
So here is the exact recipe from this cookbook – no MSG required.
Sweet Chili Shrimp
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey*
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, finely chopped
In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Set aside.
Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 to 40 seconds. Toss in the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until pink.
Pour in the sauce and stir to coat the shrimp well.
Transfer to a plate and serve.
* I used less honey just because I didn’t want these too sweet.
note: These would also make a fabulous hors d’oeuvre!
The author of this cookbook is Diana Kuan. She is a food writer and cooking instructor who has taught Chinese cooking in Beijing and New York.