This Asian Chili-Garlic Shrimp is one of those delicious dinner recipes you can put together in no time and make you glad you skipped takeout. Perfectly cooked shrimp coated with a garlicky, slightly sweet, and spicy sauce — that's all there is to it. A version of this in standard Filipino preparation would involve adding 7-up or Sprite for that extra sweetness and using head-on shelled shrimp for full flavor, an option you can definitely go for.
What type of shrimp can I use?
For this recipe, I used raw frozen shrimp that has been peeled and deveined with their heads removed. As long as they are correctly thawed, frozen shrimp practically has the same taste and texture as the fresh ones, which, more often than not, were previously frozen too.
If you like the juices within the head of a shrimp or enjoy peeling them as you eat, go ahead and keep them on. They definitely add a ton of flavor. As to the size, I like using large-sized shrimps for this recipe, but of course, you can use any size you may already have or prefer. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.
How can I perfectly cook the shrimp?
There is a thin line between a perfectly cooked shrimp and one that is chewy and unappetizing. Watch the shrimp closely as they cook very quickly. For this recipe, sear the shrimp over high heat for about a minute, depending on the size. Make sure not to overcrowd or overlap the shrimp in the pan. Sear in batches, if necessary. It's crucial that they lightly brown on the outside but remains juicy and tender. Coating the shrimp with cornstarch creates a nice brown crust where the sauce can cling to. As soon as the shrimp turns opaque and pink, I flip it and do the same on the other side. It's okay to take them out prematurely; the residual heat and the hot sauce will cook them through.
What are Chili Garlic Sauce and Sambal Oelek? What can I use instead?
Chili Garlic Sauce and Sambal Oelek are chili sauces widely used in Asian cuisine. They are very similar to each other. They are essentially ground red chilies with a thick and chunky consistency that can either be used as a condiment or cooking ingredient. Chili Garlic Sauce, unlike Sambal Oelek, is made with the addition of garlic. It's worth having these sauces in your pantry. They add freshness and heat, as if fresh chilies were used, without changing the dish's flavor. They also last a very long time in the fridge. As a substitute, you can use Sriracha.
What is Shaoxing Wine?
Shaoxing Wine is a type of rice wine that is an essential ingredient in Chinese cooking. I personally like using Shaoxing wine in most Chinese dishes as it adds depth, enhancing the flavor of the dish. For this recipe, Mirin is a good substitute.
Can I make the sauce ahead?
Absolutely! You can make this ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the shrimp:
- 1 pound shrimp, deveined
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the sauce:
- ½ head of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1-2 teaspoons chopped Bird's eye chili or dried red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons Chili Garlic Sauce or Sambal Oelek
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Scallions, sliced (optional)
- Cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Fried garlic (optional)
- Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add cornstarch in a bowl and lightly coat each evenly.
- On a skillet over high heat, add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is almost smoking, quickly sear the shrimp, about a minute on each side. Make sure you don't overcrowd the pan and keep the temperature high. You want to create a nice crust on the outside but not overcook the shrimp. You may need to do this in batches. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium. On the same pan, add more oil as needed. Sauté ginger and garlic for about a minute; make sure they don't burn.
- Add the chili pepper and shallots, cooking until slightly softened for about a minute.
- Add the Chili Garlic Sauce/Sambal Oelek, cooking wine, fish sauce, water, sugar, and salt. Let it cook until it starts to bubble. Taste and adjust. You may need more salt, sugar, chilies, or hot sauce.
- Mix the butter in.
- Bring the shrimp back to the pan and coat with the sauce. Turn off the heat.
- Add scallions, cilantro, and fried garlic as desired. Serve right away and enjoy!