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Kung Pao Shrimp offers an exhilarating blend of flavors and textures that come together in a dish that's equal parts savory, sweet, and spicy. Skip the takeout and create an authentic Asian dining experience in your kitchen instead. Ready in just 25 minutes, it's ideal for a quick but impressive weeknight dinner.
In this dish, succulent shrimp take the spotlight, complemented by the crunch of diced red bell peppers and roasted peanuts. Fresh garlic and ginger infuse the dish with aromatic depth, while an easy, spicy sauce adds layers of complexity. Every bite offers a variety of flavors and textures to savor.
Ingredients You Need to Make Kung Pao Shrimp
For the Base
- Rice: Choose long-grain white rice for a fluffier texture, or brown rice for a nuttier flavor.
- Soy Sauce: Regular soy sauce or, for a lower salt content, use a reduced sodium variety (light soy sauce).
- Water: Use filtered water if possible.
- Hot Chili Paste: Sambal oelek is ideal.
- Honey: Choose raw honey for the best flavor.
- Rice Vinegar: Use unseasoned rice vinegar for a clean, pure taste.
- Sichuan Peppercorns: Also known as Szechuan peppercorns, these are key to the flavor of this dish.
- Cornstarch: Any brand will do; this will be used as a thickening agent.
For the Stir Fry
- Peanut Oil: Choose a high-quality, unrefined option.
- Garlic: Freshly minced garlic is key for robust flavor.
- Fresh Ginger: Choose a piece that's firm and smooth for mincing.
- Medium Shrimp: Buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined for convenience.
- Red Bell Pepper: Look for a firm, brightly colored pepper. You can use a green bell pepper instead or a mix of the two.
- Green Onion: Choose stalks that are vibrant in color and firm to the touch.
- Roasted Unsalted Peanuts: Optional, but unsalted crunchy peanuts are best to control the dish's salt level.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: Optional, for those who like extra heat.
- For a soy-free alternative, you can use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
- Can't find sambal oelek? Sriracha sauce works well in its place.
- Instead of peanuts, try cashews or almonds for crunch.
- Sichuan peppercorns lend a unique flavor, but if you can't find them, use coarsely ground black pepper or a small amount of red pepper flakes to add a different kind of heat.
- For extra vegetables, consider adding snap peas, zucchini, thinly sliced carrot or even water chestnuts or baby corn. Just be cautious not to overload the dish, as you want to maintain a balanced set of flavors and textures.
- Rice Timing: Plan to have your rice finish cooking just before you begin the stir fry. This way both components of the dish are hot and ready to serve together.
- Taste Before Serving: Before dishing it out, taste the stir fry and adjust seasonings if necessary. More chili flakes can be added for heat, or a splash of soy sauce for more depth.
- Garnish Timing: If using optional garnishes like roasted peanuts or additional sliced green onions, add them just before serving. This maintains their texture and freshness, enhancing the final dish.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Overcooking the Shrimp: The quickest way to ruin this dish is by overcooking the shrimp. They should be cooked just until pink and opaque, as they will continue to cook in the hot sauce.
- Skipping Fresh Ingredients: While it's convenient to use pre-minced garlic or ginger paste, fresh is best. Using fresh garlic and ginger significantly elevates the flavor of this dish.
- Rushing the Prep: This dish comes together quickly once you start cooking, so make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready to go before you heat the oil. Rushing through the prep can lead to missed steps or forgotten ingredients.
How to Store and Reheat
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet and over medium-low heat until warmed through.
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How to Make Kung Pao Shrimp
(Make rice per package instructions, aiming to have it ready with the stir fry.) In a bowl, whisk soy sauce, water, chili paste, honey, rice vinegar, and Sichuan peppercorns; set aside. Mix cornstarch with a teaspoon of water in another bowl; set aside.
Heat peanut oil in a skillet on medium-high. Sauté garlic and ginger briefly, then add shrimp until they start to turn pink. Stir in bell pepper and green onions for two minutes.
Pour in sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch mix, lower heat, and stir until shrimp are cooked and sauce thickens. Serve in individual bowls, topping with peanuts and red pepper flakes if desired, and pair with hot rice.
Kung Pao Shrimp
- 1 cup rice
For the Sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce or reduced sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon hot chili paste such as sambal oelek
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (also called Szechuan peppercorns) coarsely ground in a spice grinder or well crushed with a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Stir Fry
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 red bell pepper seeds and membrane removed, diced
- 6 green onions white and green parts, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces, plus more, sliced for garnish (optional)
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- red pepper flakes to taste
- Cook rice according to package directions. (You'll want it to be cooked and hot at the same time that you're ready to serve the shrimp.)
For the Sauce
- Whisk together soy sauce, water, chili paste, honey, rice vinegar and crushed Sichuan peppercorns in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
- In a small bowl stir cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water together. Set aside.
For the Stir Fry
- Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp; cook and stir 1 minute, until just starting to turn pink. Add bell pepper and green onions; cook and stir 2 minutes.
- Add soy sauce mixture and stir; bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened slightly and shrimp is cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to serving platter or divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with peanuts and red pepper flakes (optional); serve with hot cooked rice.