*I actually took the photos in this post months ago, when I was testing out my camera and figuring out how this blog worked. But I was reminded after making this dish again a few days ago. This time, it was especially delicious, made with live shrimp (!) bought at a wet market in Kowloon. If you visit Hong Kong or China, you have to check one out. They typically sell fresh produce and meat, and sometimes live animals such as chicken, frogs, etc.
Those of you who know me well know that I'm not very domestic.
I don't like to vacuum, wash dishes or cook. Dusting confounds me, and I have yet to hear a convincing reason for why making the bed is a good idea. Very few people ever saw the inside of my apartment in Los Angeles. It's not because I didn't like my friends; it's because I was afraid their delicate immune systems would collapse under the sheer squalor. (I'm currently staying with a longtime pal in Hong Kong, and he has a Hercule Poirot-level pathological love of neatness, cleanliness and symmetry. I'm hoping I can get by on sheer sparkle and charm before my inner slob forces him to kick me out.)
However, I love to eat. And over the years, I've learned to make a couple of things (Literally, two dishes. This, and sausage jambalaya) that I especially like. When I was up in the Bay Area visiting my lovely friend Hannah, I decided to make this for her one night after she had endured a long day at her law firm.
This recipe is not mine. For years, I used one from some website that collected Chinese recipes. Then that site disappeared, which prompted a mini-panic before I found this one (which is exactly the same as the old one. Did that other site evolve into the Spruce?).
So go on over to the Spruce if you want the original recipe. Continue reading here if you'd like my tweaks and commentary. I mostly just want to write this down here so I don't freak out if it vanishes again.
-- 1 pound (or half a kilo) of shrimp (the Spruce recipe says peeled. I say to leave at least the heads on, because sucking out the brains is unbelievably tasty. Seriously, go ahead and try it. Food of the gods).
--2 tablespoons (about 30 ml) of some kind of oil (I never measure. Just eyeball it).
--2 tablespoons (about 30 ml) of black bean sauce with garlic (the most crucial ingredient, besides the shrimp. You can find this at most neighborhood supermarkets. My local Vons carried it.)
--2 teaspoons (or about 10 ml) minced ginger
--1 bell pepper, any color works, cut into pieces
--sometimes I'll toss in half an onion, diced into large chunks. In which case, you should probably up the black bean sauce to 3 tablespoons.
--1 green onion, chopped into little pieces
--1 tablespoon (about 30 ml) rice wine (Google tells me white wine would work as well)
--The Spruce recommends 1/4 teaspoon (about 1 ml) of salt. Never done this, because the soy sauce + black bean sauce + chicken broth is salty enough.
--3/4 cup (about 180 ml) chicken broth
--1 tablespoon (about 15 ml) rice wine (again, white wine probably works.)
--1 tablespoon (about 15 ml) soy sauce
--1 teaspoon (about 5 ml) sugar
--1 tablespoon (about 15 ml) cornstarch
--2 tablespoons (about 30 ml) water
1. Rinse the shrimp, and also peel if needed. The Spruce recommends patting them dry. I have never done this, and it's been fine. Then put the shrimp into a bowl and pour on the marinade ingredients (rice wine and optional salt). Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice wine coats all the shrimp.
2. In a bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients. Then in another container, mix the cornstarch and water.
3. Heat your saucepan and add some oil to roughly coat the pan. I toss in the ginger as well, because I don't like waiting for the oil to get hot. Once it does start sizzling, add in the black bean sauce and stir for a few seconds.
4. Add the shrimp. Do NOT get confused and add the bell pepper first, which I've done before. If you do this, the bell pepper will soak up the bulk of the black bean sauce, and your shrimp will be sadly under-sauced. Stir fry the shrimp for maybe a minute, and then push them to the sides of the pan.
5. Add the bell pepper. If you have onion, throw that in as well. Stir-fry for a minute or two. If the pan starts getting dry, toss in some more chicken broth or water.
6. Push the shrimp, bell pepper and bonus onion to the sides of the pan. Sir your sauce one more time, and then pour into the middle of the pan. Bring the entire concoction to a boil, before stirring the cornstarch mix again and then pouring into the sauce. Stir the sauce. It should star thickening right away.
7. Stir the entire thing, shrimp, bell pepper and all. Then pour in the green onion bits, and give it another stir.
8. Serve with freshly made rice. Try not to drool.
This recipe supposedly serves 3 to 4 people. I have eaten all of it in one setting and wished for more.