Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sichuan style chili-and-garlic prawns

Every now and then I'll be cooking on all cylinders and hit an ethnic dish that (to me, at least) seems to hit the nail on the head and taste as good as it would get at a hole-in-the-wall eatery where folks actually know their stuff with that particular cuisine.

So it was tonight with this simple Sichuan-style dish, prawns (yeah, all right, Sophie's Kitchen konjaku-based no-meat prawns, but you could certainly use the real thing) stir-fried with a boatload of garlic, red and black pepper and fresh broccoli.

It didn't take long to make, was great with rice, and, to use a technical East Asian cooking term, was goo-oo-ood!

4-6 big cloves garlic
Dried red-pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Heinz Chili Sauce (a secret ingredient that works remarkably in Asian dishes)
1 tablespoon sweet Sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 package Sophie's Kitchen "Vegan Prawns" or, if you like, 8 to 12 ounces fresh shelled shrimp
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in water
2 cups broccoli florets, previously blanched, drained and set aside.

1. Peel and mince the garlic, and season it with dried red-pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You don't need to overdo the red pepper, but do use plenty of black pepper, here and in step 4. Its flavor adds distinct character to this dish.

2. Mix together the sauce ingredients: Soy sauce, chili sauce, sherry, sesame oil, brown sugar, lemon juice, and enough water to bring it up to about 3/4 cup. Whisk to blend.

3. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large saucepan and saute the garlic-spice mix until the garlic is translucent. Put in the shrimp and toss for a moment until it warms through.

4. Add the sauce mix, reduce heat to low, and cook until the prawns are coated and the sauce starts to thicken. Stir in the cooked broccoli, then add a little water, then the cornstarch mix, a little at a time, using only as much as needed to thicken the sauce a bit. Finish with more black pepper to taste, and serve with steaming white rice.