~ Have a Blast: Hot and Crispy Firecracker Shrimp ~
Start with really big shrimp (no alternative facts here). Simmer down. What's the point of having a blog and being on social media if you're going to lie -- about anything? Here on KE, where I test, write and photograph my own recipes, it's easy to speak truth. Experience has taught: the bigger the shrimp the better the firecracker shrimp, and, since their count, which determines their size, is clearly-labeled, you will have no where to run or hide if you don't use 21-25 count (jumbo), or ideally, 16-20 count (extra-jumbo) shrimp, to make this appetizer. No matter what you say or how hard you try to skew it, the end result will be obvious. You've been warned.
In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't. There is no industry standard. One vendor's medium, may be another's extra-large. This explains why so many are confused by these words: small, medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. When buying shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words, they're numbers. To learn more, click on the Related Article link below: ~ Purchase Shrimp by "Count", not "Size" ~.
Count = the number of shrimp per pound. The smaller the number the bigger the shrimp. 16/20 = 16-20 shrimp per pound.
Thaw the shrimp if they are frozen, peel and devein them, and, be sure to leave the tails on. Why? A shrimp with the tail left on is a very pretty presentation, particularly if there is a chance the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole. It serves as a convenient "handle" -- especially if there is a dipping sauce. There's more: All shrimp connoisseurs know the last bite of shrimp (located inside the tail), is the most succulent bite. That said: Whether in the home kitchen or in a restaurant, peeling shrimp is labor intensive. Leaving the tail on is an indication that the cook or chef cares about you and is serving you the best quality shrimp possible.
The only reason to ever remove the tail from a shrimp is when the shrimp, usually smaller ones, are inclusive in the dish, meaning: the diner needs a fork, spoon and/or a knife to eat the dish.
Ever wonder why the jumbo, batter-dipped or wrapped, deep-fried shrimp served in restaurants or seen on television look so much better than the ones most folks make in the home kitchen -- fingerlike looking, instead of curled up in tight little balls?
1 pound extra-jumbo (16-20 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on and patted dry
~ Step 1. Using a sharp paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears, trim the end tips off the tails at angle.
Doesn't that look prettier already?
This little (Japanese) trick, which takes almost no time, works great when boiling, steaming, sautéing or broiling shrimp too.
~ Step 2. Flip/turn each shrimp over on its back and score two or three shallow slits in the belly (as if you were going to slice each shrimp into thirds or fourths). Do not cut too deep, just "nick it" with the knife along the inside curve. This allows the shrimp to "relax" and straighten out instead of curling up.
Note: Both of these steps can be done up to one day prior to deep-frying shrimp. Cover prepped shrimp with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to proceed.
Moving along to my easy six-ingredient Asian marinade.
Made from Asian staples I keep on-hand in my pantry and refrigerator, this is my favorite combination. Some folks add some Sriracha sauce, others add chili-garlic sauce -- especially if those ingredients are to be used in their dipping sauce recipe too. I add sweet chili sauce, because that is what I use as dipping sauce, and, because it's sweet, it serves as my substitute for palm sugar, light brown sugar or sugar (some form of sugar is common in most recipes).
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy) or palm sugar, light brown sugar or sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
~ Step 1. In a shallow bowl with sloped sides and a flat bottom (like a rimmed-soup bowl) stir all of the ingredients together. Take a taste and feel free to adjust the seasonings to suit yourself.
Note: Minus the cornstarch, this mixture makes a tasty dipping sauce for many Asian appetizers.
~ Step 2. Working one-at-a-time, holding each shrimp by the tail, swish it in the marinade, to coat the meat while doing your best not to get marinade on the tail. As you work, place shrimp, tails up, into a second, shallow-bottomed bowl with sloped sides and a flat bottom. Marinate for 30-45 minutes.
Ready, set, go -- it's time to wrap, roll & deep-fry.
~ Step 1. While the shrimp are marinating: Heat peanut or vegetable oil in a deep-fryer to 365°-375° according to manufacturer's specifications. In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon water -- this egg wash will be used to seal the wraps on the firecracker shrimp. Slice 8-10, 5 1/2"-square egg roll wrappers, corner-to-corner, into triangles. One-at-a time, pick each shrimp up by the tail, remove it from the marinade and blot the meat in a paper towel, to remove as much excess liquid as possible.
~Step 2. To wrap and deep-fry each shrimp: Starting at a lower corner of the egg roll wrapper, position the shrimp so that the point where the "shrimp meat meets the crunchy tail" is on the edge. Begin rolling, cigar-style, as tightly as you can, until the shrimp is positioned directly below the pointy top of the triangle. Using a pastry brush, paint the remaining open surface with the egg wash. Lift and pull the pointy top of the triangle down over the top of the shrimp, then, continue rolling until a compact cylinder has formed. Continue rolling until all the "firecrackers" are formed.
~ Step 3. Open the lid of the fryer. One-at-a-time, using your fingertips, gently place 4-5 firecracker shrimp into the hot oil -- it's important not to crowd the fryer basket. Close the lid on the fryer and allow to cook for 3-3 1/2 minutes until a pretty golden brown.
The timing, 3-3 1/2 minutes, will depend on whether you used jumbo or extra jumbo shrimp. Using an Asian spider, remove shrimp from fryer transfer to a cooling rack that has been placed over a layer or two of paper towels to catch the drips. Repeat this process until all shrimp are deep-fried.
Be patient. Wait 1-2 minutes prior to serving hot & crispy:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; paring knife; paper towels; deep-fryer; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; wire cooling rack
Cook's Note: Occasionally I serve firecracker shrimp as a main-course. My recipe for ~ Leftover Rice? Use it to Make Chinese Fried Rice ~, omitting the chicken or pork and made with vegetables alone, is the perfect accompaniment. You can find the recipe in Categories 3, 14 or 26.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)