Recipes by Rosengarten: Szechuan Shrimp with Chili and Garlic Sauce

This Chinese wok-fried dish is a fiery hit.


This is my favorite Szechuan recipe ever to make at home. Follow all the crazy little details for a spectacular, spicy result. Serves four as part of a Chinese dinner.

1 pound medium shrimp
4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili sauce (I use Heinz brand)
2 teaspoons shao hsing
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste with garlic (like Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon MSG
4 cups peanut oil
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1/2 cup minced scallions (about 4 fat scallions, white and green parts)
3 dried red chilies
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Peel, de-vein and butterfly the shrimp. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and allow to stand for 1/2 hour.

During this time, prepare the sauce: mix together the hoisin sauce, chili sauce, shao hsing, soy sauce, fish sauce, chili paste with garlic, sesame oil, hot chili oil, sugar and MSG. Reserve.

When you are ready to cook, bring the peanut oil to 375 degrees in a wok.

Thoroughly wash the salt off the shrimp with running cold water. Add another teaspoon of salt to the shrimp, mix, let stand for 30 seconds, and wash off the salt. Repeat this procedure twice more. The final time, drain well but do not dry--let some water cling to the shrimp.

Immerse half of the shrimp in the hot oil, and cook until just past translucent (20 seconds or so). Remove the shrimp to paper towels. Add the remaining shrimp. The oil will not be as hot, so this portion of shrimp may need 30 seconds to finish cooking. Remove them to paper towels.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok. Over high heat, stir-fry the ginger, garlic, scallions and dried chilies for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp, and toss well to blend. Add the reserved sauce, and stir to coat the shrimp. Turn the dish out onto a platter, garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.

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Reader Comments:
Jun 1, 2010 03:30 pm
 Posted by  KMulkey

Add MSG. Really??

This has been flagged
Jun 7, 2010 11:48 am
 Posted by  HomeBBQ

1/2 teaspoon MSG... Are you NUTS...

This has been flagged
Jun 7, 2010 11:51 am
 Posted by  HomeBBQ

1/2 teaspoon MSG... are you NUTS

This has been flagged
Jun 7, 2010 12:20 pm
 Posted by  HomeBBQ

MSG - Flagged as inappropriate

This has been flagged
Jun 7, 2010 11:48 pm
 Posted by  danivines

Not only have you suggested we use MSG (which is out of the question), but you've omitted a wine recommendation. What is up?!

Jun 8, 2010 09:19 am
 Posted by  Kathleen M.

David Rosengarten, the author of this piece, emailed in the following comment:

This is one of my favorite's great either with or without MSG!

But I am on the MSG side. I think it makes Chinese food taste even better. If you wish to make a quick experiment: boil some chicken in water for a few minutes with and without a little MSG. The "with" will taste like soup; the without will taste like nothing.

Many scientists are re-thinking the MSG "curse." If you know it gives you headaches, don't use it! But millions are unnecessarily scared by it. Acoording to food science expert Harold McGee, it has no ill effect at all on your health.

I'm researching this subject myself!

Jun 10, 2010 12:29 am
 Posted by  She-She

What is Shao hsing????? Where would you purchase it?

Very Interested

Jun 18, 2010 01:38 pm
 Posted by  Kat M.

From David Rosengarten:

Shao hsing: Chinese rice wine. You can easily get it in Chinatown liquor stores, maybe some groceries too (like the "cooking wine" version).....or you can substitute dry sherry.

Jun 20, 2010 09:07 am
 Posted by  candy1971

Hi David,
for your dish you recommend an oxidized Chinese wine or a dry Sherry - really?

Have you forgotten your own major contribution to wine & food pairing together with Josh:

Waking up to German Wines - The most food compatible Wines of the 90s

Sadly your prediction did not happen in the 90s but the Riesling Wunder occured 10 years later and starts to full swing now and more than justified.

So Szechuan and Riesling Spätlese - that´s the PERFECT combination and I would love to share it with you and everybody on my next trip to NY in July

Aug 19, 2010 04:15 pm
 Posted by  Jan

Should any specific kind of dried chile be used?

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