A delicious and easy-to-make recipe with perfectly cooked shrimp in a garlicky, slightly sweet, and spicy sauce. It is one of those dinners you can put together in no time and make you glad you skipped takeout. An alternate way to make this dish is the Filipino adaptation that involves adding 7-up or Sprite for that extra sweetness and using head-on shelled shrimp for full flavor.
Why this recipe works
A super easy dish to make and definitely better than takeout — a recipe you must make over and over.
Shrimp - For this recipe, I like to use “jumbo” (21-25) or “extra-jumbo” (16-20) — these numbers mean 21 to 25 pieces or 16 to 20 pieces of shrimp per pound. There are no standard names for sizes, but you will see number labels that tell you the number of pieces for each pound. Sometimes you will see U/10, for example, and that simply means “under” 10 count per pound. Just remember that the smaller the number, the larger the size.
Chili Garlic Sauce - Interchangeable with Sambal Oelek in this recipe. They are both widely used in Asian cuisine and are very similar to each other. They are ground red chilies with a thick and chunky consistency used as a condiment or cooking ingredient. Chili Garlic Sauce, unlike Sambal Oelek, is made with the addition of garlic. I use them in sauces and stir-fries like tofu and asparagus stir-fry. They add freshness and heat, as if fresh chilies were used, without changing the dish's flavor. As a substitute, you can use an equal amount of Sriracha.
Shaoxing Wine - An amber-colored Chinese rice wine that is an essential ingredient in Chinese and Chinese-influenced Filipino recipes. Its addition, although typically minimal, does make a lot of difference in cooking. I use it in stir-fries like Beef Stir Fry with Onions and Peppers, braises/stews, and sauces. It adds depth, enhancing the flavors in the dish. To substitute in this recipe, you can use another Chinese cooking wine or Japanese rice wine (sake).
Let's make It
Sear the shrimp: (1)Rinse and dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. (2)Place them in a bowl and add cornstarch to lightly coat them. Set a skillet over high heat. When the pan is almost smoking, add oil to coat the bottom. (3)Sear the shrimp for one minute on one side. (4)Turn and give the other side another minute to brown. Careful not to overcook them. Add more oil as needed. Don't overcrowd the pan to keep the temperature high. Sear in batches. Transfer to a plate.
Make the sauce: Lower the heat to medium. On the same pan, add more oil as needed. (1)Sauté the ginger, garlic, shallots, and chilies. Cook until slightly softened for a minute. Make sure they don't burn. (2)Add the Chili Garlic Sauce, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, water, sugar, and salt. (3)Let it cook until it starts bubbling. (4)Mix the butter in. Taste and adjust — you may want more salt, sugar, or more chilies.
Combine: Bring the shrimp back to the pan and coat with the sauce. Turn off the heat.
Serve: Add scallions, cilantro, and fried garlic or shallots as an option. Enjoy!
Absolutely! As a matter of fact, I like using frozen ones in most of my shrimp recipes like Salt and Pepper Shrimp and Okoy. The "fresh" ones you see at the seafood counter in the supermarket are, most often than not, previously frozen too. Unless you live on the coast and have access to fresh-caught shrimp, it’s smart to stick with frozen ones that undergo the freezing process right after they are harvested, preserving their freshness. When properly thawed, they have the same taste and texture as the fresh ones.
If you like the juices within its head or enjoy peeling them as you eat, go ahead and keep them on. They definitely add a ton of flavor. For this recipe, I personally prefer them peeled with their tails on. It just makes eating easier for me.
There is a thin line between perfectly cooked and one that is chewy and unappetizing. Watch them closely as they cook very quickly. Make sure the pan and the oil are very hot before adding the shrimp. Keep the high temperature steady by not overcrowding or overlapping them on the pan. Searing on each side only takes about a minute, depending on the size. When the shrimp turns opaque and pink, it should be ready. It's okay to take them out prematurely as the residual heat and the hot sauce will cook them through.
Absolutely! You can make this ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
The key takeaway
You can tweak the sauce to exactly how you like it, but cooking the shrimp perfectly is the most important thing to remember in making this dish or any shrimp dish for that matter.
Watch how I make it here
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Did you make this recipe? I would love to know! Your feedback helps me make better recipes. Please rate, review, or comment below. Questions about this recipe are welcome, too!
Asian Chili Garlic Shrimp
- Wok or Skillet or Sauté pan
For the shrimp:
- 1 pound "jumbo" (21-25) or "extra-jumbo" (16-20) shrimp shelled, deveined
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Oil for searing and sautéing
For the sauce:
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon Bird's eye chili or dried red pepper flakes add more to taste
- 2 tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce or Sambal Oelek
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 2 tablespoon butter
- scallions sliced (optional)
- cilantro chopped (optional)
- fried garlic or shallots optional
- Sear the shrimp: Rinse and dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Place them in a bowl and add cornstarch to lightly coat them. Set a skillet over high heat. When the pan is almost smoking, add oil to coat the bottom. Sear the shrimp for one minute on one side. Turn and give the other side another minute to brown. Careful not to overcook them. Add more oil as needed. Don't overcrowd the pan to keep the temperature high. Sear in batches. Transfer to a plate.
- Make the sauce: Lower the heat to medium. On the same pan, add more oil as needed. Sauté the ginger and garlic for about a minute; make sure they don't burn. Add in the shallot and chilies, cook until slightly softened for another minute. Add the Chili Garlic Sauce, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, water, sugar, and salt. Let it cook until it starts bubbling. Mix the butter in. Taste and adjust — you may want more salt, sugar, or more chilies.
- Combine: Bring the shrimp back to the pan and coat with the sauce. Turn off the heat.
- Serve: Add scallions, cilantro, and fried garlic or shallots as an option. Enjoy!