Sometimes I cook based on my cravings. Sometimes, it's just a matter of what's on sale at the grocery store. For instance, yesterday I saw these head-on shrimp for only $2.99 a pound. $2.99 a pound! So, of course, I bought a pound because I immediately knew how I wanted to cook them -- lightly seasoned with salt and Chinese five-spice powder, lightly coated with rice flour, and deep-fried until crispy. And as if that wasn't yummy enough, adding some fried Thai basil leaves and dried chili pods added extra zing.
Shrimp have a natural sweetness and plenty of flavor on their own. So I like to add just a little bit of salt and Chinese five-spice powder to bring this recipe to life. With its mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese five-spice powder hits sweet, salty, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy flavor notes.
I like using rice flour when frying Asian foods because it's crispier than regular all-purpose flour, but not as hard as corn starch. If you can't get rice flour, then substitute with a mixture of half all-purpose flour and half corn starch.
Choose medium-sized white shrimp with soft, edible shells. I think head-on shrimp is best for this recipe, especially if there's lots of bright red roe inside the heads. Just detach the heads and suck out the roe to eat. :) Then plop the rest of the shrimp in your mouth.
Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Fried Shrimp with Salt)
For 1-lb of shrimp, you'll need:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup rice flour (or substitute with half all-purpose flour and half corn starch)
A few sprigs of Thai basil leaves
A few dried chili pods
Oil for deep-frying
Remove the shrimp veins by slipping a toothpick in between the shells and pulling the veins out. Rinse under cold water and drain in a colander.
This recipe comes together really quickly at this point, so set your oil in a wok or fry-pan on medium-high heat to warm up.
Sprinkle 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder over the shrimp and mix thoroughly. Do this right before you plan to cook the shrimp, otherwise the shrimp will absorb too much salt and become overly salty. Then sprinkle 1/4 cup rice flour and mix again. If the shrimp aren't all coated with flour, add some more and mix again until all the shrimp are evenly coated.
Drop one shrimp at a time into the hot oil and deep-fry until crispy and golden. I also add the basil leaves and chili pods at this point to scent and fry the oil. The basil leaves will actually crisp up.
If you don't have basil, thinly sliced green onions will add a nice bit of color and flavor. Well, you don't have to add any herbs or chili, but I think just that simple addition turned an ordinary fried shrimp recipe into a very delicious-looking dish.
Drain on paper towels and serve with rice, or a dipping sauce of salt, black pepper, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting this week. WHB is hosted this week by Anna of Anna's Cool Finds.
1 year ago today, I made Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken).