From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shrimp - Fried, Stir Fried, Honey'ed

Last week, I had forgotten to pack a lunch, and Gerry, my Maintenance Manager offered to take me to lunch.  Originally, I suggested McDonald's because it was cheap, quick and close.  Knowing that Gerry is not a burger guy, I was surprised when he readily agreed.

As we were heading out, he suggested a different option: Luby's Cafeteria.  Luby's offers a wide array of dishes to choose from, in a caferia style, but while it is a tasty option, it can be somewhat expensive.  I, not being a huge fan, asked if there was another option.  After a moment's thought, Gerry suggested the Fishland Fish Market on Walzem Road.  I have driven past the place on numerous occasions but had never dared venture inside.  I was, however, in the mood for something new, so off we went.

As we approached the restaurant, I peered into the windows and saw that there were only a couple of seats left for dining, in a dining room meant for 8 people max.  (The best bet would have been to call the order in and have it made to-go, which maybe I will do next time.)  The restaurant was filled with the aroma of frying oil and seafood (thankfully) and the dull roar of the people waiting for their food as well as the two Asian ladies cooking it. 

I ordered the 2 item combo of Fried Oysters and Fried Shrimp, and Gerry ordered the Fried Fish (catfish, although tilapia was an option) and Shrimp.  The food arrived rather quickly, though we did see a gentleman who ordered nearly $80 worth of food have to wait for 45 minutes.  With the meal came a small garden salad, fries and hushpuppies.

Prior to coming to Texas, I had absolutely no idea what a hushpuppy was.  I thought they were a kind of slipper or house shoe that one was to wear around the house.  Turns out they are a mealy version of doughnut holes, with a crispy crust and hot flavorful breading.  (At one point, while up in Dallas working with Michael Carter, I came up with a great Hushpuppy Restaurant concept, featuring jalapeno bread hushpuppies, breakfast bacon hushpuppies, and even a dessert style option.)

The fries were hot, crunchy and tasty.  It was clear to me that the ladies know there stuff, because there was not a hint of fish flavor in the fries.  Clearly they have the foresight to know better than to use the same fryer for fish as they do their fries or onion rings or hushpuppies.  The shrimp?  Very tasty, and perfectly cooked, with the cornmeal crust giving them a good crunch at first bite.  And the oysters? Wonderful.  True flavor, and well seasoned.  It was definitely a good idea, and amazingly, I left the place satisfied, and not hungry. 

Would we be able to get a fish-fry type of meal of Asian design?  Probably not.  If anything, it would be a tempura style meal, with a Japanese influence.  One of my personal favorites is the Honey Walnut Prawns*, a dish with fried prawns and sweetened carmelized walnuts, made here in the states and definitely not native to China.  (The recipe uses mayonnaise, most definitely not of Asian descent.)

Sadly, while available in many of the Asian restaurants here in the states, and with exception to the coastal regions of China, seafood is not a prominently featured protein option on the Chinese menu.  Those positions of availability are filled by pork and chicken, then followed by beef and shrimp.  This has created the diverse recipes that many of  the restaurants offer.  In manipulating the standard themes of protein, starch and sauce, menu items have begun to represent the local tastes that are the region. 

This complex of interrelated features of Chinese food can be described as the Chinese fan-ts'ai principle. ("Fan" is the standard word for grain or rice, and "ts'ai" describes meats and vegetables.)  Send a Chinese cook into an American kitchen, given Chinese or American ingredients, and he or she will (a) prepare an adequate amount of fan, (b) cut up the ingredients and mix them up in various combinations, and (c) cook the ingredients into several dishes and, perhaps, a soup. Given the right ingredients, the "Chineseness" of the meal would increase, but even with entirely native American ingredients and cooked in American utensils, it is still a Chinese meal.   Given this flexibility and adaptability, the distinctive Asian flavors, appearances and taste do not depend on actual or specific ingredients. 

As a result, even if I were to decide to cook a specific "Chinese Recipe" for shrimp, I would still be able to modify it in my own way, adhering to the principles of cooking in the "Chinese Style" and produce a tasty "Chinese Meal."  To qualify as a true Chinese Gentleman, in the country itself, I would have to be able to demonstrate knowledge and skill pertaining to food and drink.  As a member of the race of peoples who have clearly been preoccupied with the art of dining, food and eating, I can say with authority that in this facet of our lives, China has definitely shown more inventiveness than any other nation.  hmm... wonder what I should do tonight...  I do know that shrimp is on the menu... 

Until Then, Good Eating, Friends...

Crispy Tea Shrimp


12 large shrimp

dash of coarse salt

1 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine or sherry

1 teaspoon minced green scallion

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

2 teaspoons white tea leaves, ground fine

1 egg

3 Tablespoons plain or tapioca flour

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 cup corn oil


1. Shell and devein the shrimp, then mix them with the salt, rice wine, scallion, ginger, tea leaves, egg, flour, and sesame oil. Let them marinate about ten minutes.

2. Heat oil. Remove a shrimp from the batter mixture and deep fry for one minute. Do not fry more than a few at a time. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until done, and when all are fried, serve.

*Honey Walnut Prawns


1 lb of Large Shrimps, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup Walnuts

5 cups Water

1 cup Sugar

2 cups Oil

1/2 cup Cornstarch

1/2 cup Egg whites

2 Tbs Honey

3 Tbs Mayonnaise

1 Tbs Fresh lemon juice

1/2 Tbs Condensed milk

1/2 cup Oil

1. Rinse walnuts, then boil in 5 cups water, continually changing water until clear.

2. When clear, boil with sugar until sugar dissolves.

3. Heat 2 cups oil until almost smoking, then deep fry walnuts until they're shiny and brown, no longer golden.

4. Place walnuts to cookie sheet, let cool.

5. Mix cornstarch and egg whites together to form a thick, sticky texture and mix well with Shrimp. Set aside. Mix honey, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and condensed milk in a medium bowl until smooth.

6. Heat oil until boiling, then deep fry the Shrimp until golden brown.

7. Drain, then fold in honey mayonnaise mixture. Mix well, sprinkle with walnuts, and arrange on platter

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1 comment:

  1. These recipes sound great. I haven't made shrimp for awhile--usually coconut shrimp.
    You've got me salivating again, Colin--and I haven't even had breakfast yet...
    Fantastic blog, as usual!
    [My husband used to eat at Luby's on flight layovers.]