I loved Chinese food so much when I was a kid that a story started circulating in my family that I was actually part Chinese.* Was I switched at birth? Did my mother have an illicit affair with a Chinese man? Who knew? But throughout my childhood, any time I got to choose, we ate Chinese. Chinese New Year, which is coming up on February 16, is the perfect excuse to indulge in my favorite cuisine. Different foods symbolize good fortune in the new year—health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and more. This Szechuan Shrimp will bring lots of laughs in the new year.
When I learned that shrimp symbolizes laughter (because the word for shrimp, “har,” sounds like laughter), I knew I had to include this spicy, garlicky Szechuan Shrimp in my family’s celebratory meal. I don’t know about you, but the year of the Rooster hasn’t had nearly enough hilarity, so bring on the shrimp, bring on the laughs for the year of the Dog! This shrimp is loaded with garlic, ginger, and tangy fermented beans, and it has a spicy kick, too.
To make this a celebration-worthy meal, I’m rounding it out with some drunken noodles (they symbolize longevity) made by Ling Ling Asian Kitchen. I’m generally a from-scratch kind of cook, but Ling Ling’s frozen products—including fried rice and potstickers—impress me. These noodles are a great example. With frozen prepared foods, it’s hard to get either the flavor or the texture right, but somehow Ling Ling manages to do both.
The noodles have a nice chewiness and they are deeply infused with flavor. The drunken noodles are a bit spicy and studded with fresh-tasting veggies and juicy bits of chicken. And they are super easy to heat up in a skillet while I cook the rest of the meal. Check Ling Ling’s store locator to find out where you can buy their products in your neighborhood.
* I recently did one of those genetic testing kits and was disappointed to discover that I am, in fact, 99.9 percent European—half Irish Catholic, half Russian Jew, exactly as you’d expect from my family history. At least my mother will be glad to put the rumors about her affair to rest.Print
Szechuan Shrimp for Chinese New Year
This spicy, garlicky shrimp is quick and easy to make but full of flavor. It uses both spicy bean paste and chili oil with fermented black beans, both of which can be found in Chinese or Asian markets or the international foods aisle of many supermarkets.
1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons sherry or Chinese cooking wine, divided
3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon water, divided
1 ½ tablespoons spicy bean paste
1 ½ tablespoons chili oil with fermented black beans
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece ginger, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- In a medium bowl, toss together the shrimp with 2 tablespoons of the cooking wine and the cornstarch.
- In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of the water, chili oil with black beans, spicy bean paste, soy sauce, and the remaining tablespoon of cooking wine.
- In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining teaspoon of cornstarch with the remaining teaspoon of water.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until just opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the skillet.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two and then add the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Bring back to a boil and add the cornstarch-water mixture. Cook, stirring, for another minute or two until the shrimp is heated through and the sauce thickens. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro.