Cantonese Salt and Pepper Shrimp was by far one of my most favorite dishes growing up. My mom would make this shrimp, but with the shell still on, so it always took some work to get the sweet, juicy shrimp out. But after becoming an adult, laziness overtook me and I make this with the shell off, except on the tail. I should just remove the shell entirely, but I think deep down I keep it on there for nostalgia.
I dredge with potato starch before the shrimp, because I find it’s slightly crunchier than frying with cornstarch. But if you can’t find it, cornstarch will still do the trick. Both creates a thin, crispy crust, and not as thick and clumpy as using flour.
If you can’t find the salt and pepper mixture at your store (or don’t have an Asian market nearby), you can make your own salt and pepper by cooking it before using for this recipe.
If you’re like my dad and can’t take any spice whatsoever, you can omit the jalapeños. My mom used to cook it with minced green peppers in place of spicy peppers, but I like to use both kinds of peppers for mine. Because two peppers provide more flavor than one pepper. And because nostalgia.
I think it’s the fact that I’m the one preparing the dish now, that I don’t want to do any more extra work de-shelling as I eat the shrimp. You can leave the shell on if you’d like, because it supposedly keeps the shrimp more flavorful by retaining the natural juices and sweetness, but I like it de-shelled because the shrimp takes on more of the flavor from the peppers, onions and garlic it’s cooked with.
Cantonese Salt and Pepper Shrimp
- 15 Large to Jumbo Shrimp (or 1/2 lb.), de-veined
- potato starch for dredging shrimp (substitution: cornstarch)
- corn oil for frying
- 1/4 cup green peppers, minced
- 1/4 cup jalapeños, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup onions, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper mixture*
- Step 1 *To make salt and pepper, combine salt and white pepper using a 3:1 ratio. In a small pot, heat to medium high and add salt and pepper. Stir continuously until salt starts turning golden brown, or until fragrant. Set aside to sprinkle on shrimp, and store the remaining salt and pepper seasoning in tupperware for later uses. – Skip this entire step if you can buy the cooked salt and pepper mixture at the store.
- Step 2 Pat the shrimp dry. Dredge shrimp with potato starch, and shake off excess.
- Step 3 In a large skillet, fill with 1/2 inch corn oil. Heat to medium – medium high heat, and add shrimp. Fry 1 minute per side, or until shrimp is barely cooked through (you will be adding to stir fry later and don’t want to overcook them). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon onto a plate and set aside.
- Step 4 Remove excess oil and keep approximately 1 tbsp. oil on the same pan. On medium high heat, cook green peppers, jalepeños and onions until softened and onions begin to caramelize. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add shrimp, stir to combine, then add between 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper, depending on your taste. Stir everything together and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Instructions with Photos:
Mise en place!
Pat the shrimp dry. Dredge shrimp with potato starch, and shake off excess.
In a large skillet, fill with 1/2 inch corn oil. Heat to medium – medium high heat, and add shrimp.
Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon onto a plate and set aside.
Remove excess oil and keep approximately 1 tbsp. oil on the same pan.
On medium high heat, cook green peppers, jalapeños and onions until softened and onions begin to caramelize.
Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
Add shrimp, stir to combine,
then add between 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper, depending on your taste. Stir fry for another 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.