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  • Bettina Applewhite

Salt & Pepper Shrimp

Any recipe that calls for 6 ingredients plus salt and pepper is a winner in my book. With just a few ingredients these salt and pepper fried shrimp are simply delicious. They are crispy and full of flavor.

I was first introduced to this dish at a local Vietnamese restaurant and they cook their shrimp with heads on and shell still intact. It's awesome. I've been to other restaurants who take the heads off and leave the shells on and others who remove both the heads and the shells. It's so much easier to enjoy with the heads and shells removed. When sharing with others, I remove the heads and shells of the shrimp. Not everyone wants to work so hard for their food. I leave the tails intact because it looks pretty but you can remove them as well.

I've seen this dish on both Vietnamese and Chinese menus. I like trying it out at different places because even though it's the same dish it tastes different according to where you try it. I've tried recipes with ginger as part of a marinade and toasting Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt and grinding them myself. I found this is the simplest recipe and it's quite tasty!

You can make this dish as spicy or not spicy as you want it. You can add in more peppers and use Sichuan peppercorns. I use sliced limes and a garnish and the acid also works to brighten the dish.

I like to season and coat the shrimp in cornstarch early in the process. I want to make sure that the coating really sticks to the shrimp so they come out crispy. Another sure way to make sure that your salt and pepper shrimp come out crispy is by making sure that your oil is hot when you cook them. Cook them in batches to make sure that you don't lower the temperature of the oil too much. You want to flash fry the shrimp. Don't overcook them. Pull them out when they turn pink. It quicker than you might expect.

This is such a simple dish that it's easy to put together when you have unexpected guests or need an additional appetizer for a party. I use it to celebrate Chinese new year, New Year's Eve, or a Thursday. You can't go wrong with crispy, fried shrimp.

Salt & Pepper Shrimp

Serves 6


2 lbs Shrimp, Peeled and deveined, tails on for presentation

Garlic cloves, a full head

Jalapeño Pepper, sliced into coins

2 Serrano Peppers, sliced into coins

1 Cup Cornstarch

1 Tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper (Use freshly ground Sichuan or Black pepper if you have it)

Canola Oil, for frying

Lime slices (for garnish)


  1. Heat canola oil in a heavy bottom skillet or deep fryer until it reaches 375 degrees F.

  2. While oil is heating, pat shrimp dry. Season shrimp with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Toss seasoned shrimp in cornstarch. Ensure that the shrimp is coated all over.

  3. Using a kitchen spider or basket, fry whole garlic cloves until golden about 30 - 60 seconds. Remove from the oil and set aside.

  4. Fry peppers in oil for 10 - 15 seconds (they will not turn golden) just until crispy.

  5. Fry shrimp in batches to make sure that you don't crowd the pan. Cooking too many shrimp at once will bring down the temperature of the oil and cause your shrimp to be soggy. Cook shrimp for 3 - 4 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Once all your shrimp has cooked, season again with remaining salt and pepper. Toss with cooked garlic cloves and peppers. #yum


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