Friday, April 23, 2010

Szechuan Taste

When I was quite new to New York City, I was called to jury duty in downtown Manhattan. At lunch one day someone suggested we all go to nearby Chinatown. We did and settled on a restaurant called Szechuan Taste. I, for whatever reason, ordered Shrimp in Hot Spicy Paste. It was like the scene in Pleasantville when the movie went from black-and-white to Technicolor. I never realized that those that made Chow Mien could create such a extravagant dish! That was over forty years ago and I have been experimenting ever since to recreate this ambrosia. I must have this dish ever few months or so or I suffer withdrawal. As a result, I think I have nailed it and here are the results (maybe even better than the original.)

2 lbs. raw shrimp (jumbo or prawns)
½ of a lemon (and/or 1 Tsp. baking soda)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh (only) ginger
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 large Bermuda onion or 3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
½ bunch cleaned scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup (or more) ketchup or chili sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 heaping Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp Szechuan paste (if available) or Thai equivalent
½ Tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you are so inclined)
1/3 cup peanut oil
½ cup chicken broth (or good Amontillado sherry)
1 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
1 cleaned bunch watercress (or other bitter greens)

Clean and devein shrimp, retaining tail shell if so inclined. Soak shrimp in cold water, with squeezed lemon, in refrigerator for about one hour. (Chinese chef’s secret: include the baking soda in the water to keep shrimp from getting tough during cooking.) Combine ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Szechuan paste. Set aside. Mix chicken broth and cornstarch into slurry. Retrieve shrimp, drain and dry well. (If very large, shrimp may be cut in half.) Put oil in heavy skillet or wok and heat until very hot. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes. Immediately add ginger and garlic. Before these get brown, add chopped onions. Cook until transparent. Add shrimp. Cook until color changes. Add ketchup mixture. Cook about 1 minute or so. Add chopped scallions. Cook briefly. Add cornstarch slurry and cook until mixture thickens. Turn off heat and pour sesame oil on top. Ladle onto a large serving platter on the bottom of which has been spread the watercress. Serve immediately with boiled or steamed white rice.

Say a paean to that chef at Szechuan Taste (so long gone).

1 comment:

  1. I remember when they served it so spicy that tears came to our eyes, but no one would say it was too hot! Ahh youth.