One of my favorite restaurants does a version of this dish that I love, and I probably order it once a month. They use smaller shrimp and leave the shells on, then fry them and top them with a sweet-and-hot pepper dice. You eat them shell and all, and they are crispy, spicy, and delicious. When I can find smaller, wild shrimp in the shell, I make them the same way. For this batch I had some wild, Texas shrimp that were too large to eat in the shell (the larger they are, the tougher the shells), so I peeled and deveined these before cooking.
Typically this dish involves a pepper blend for the shrimp, which might include cracked black pepper, Szechuan pepper, and/or white pepper. I use my favorite Aleppo pepper mixed with white pepper, but you can use whatever you prefer. I have had some great versions that used only cracked black pepper. The topping is just a fast stir-fry of sweet and hot peppers with some garlic and green onions, and it adds another dimension of flavor and texture.
- 3 tablespoons rice flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper, to taste)
- 1½ pounds raw, wild shrimp, peeled and deveined if large
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped sweet bell pepper (red or yellow)
- 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and/or minced
- In a one-gallon freezer bag, shake together the rice flour, salt, white pepper, and Aleppo pepper. Drop in the shrimp, seal the bag, and toss until the shrimp are well coated.
- In a large skillet or wok pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high. Add the shrimp in batches (do not crowd the pan), cooking for 2-3 minutes per side, or until pink and cooked through. Drain the cooked shrimp on paper towels while you fry the remaining batches. Note: it is helpful to use a splatter guard over the pan, as these will pop as they cook.
- When the last batch of shrimp have cooked, remove them from the pan and turn off the heat. Immediately add the jalapeno, sweet pepper, green onions, and garlic to the pan. Stir-fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes, and they will cook crisp-tender in the residual heat from the oil.
- To serve, spoon some of the vegetable mixture over each serving of shrimp. These are best served hot.
“Large” is not a legally-defined term for shrimp, so by large I mean 16/20 count or bigger (this means that you will have 16-20 shrimp per pound). 21/25 count or smaller work well for shell-on cooking. I only buy wild-caught shrimp because there is an enormous difference in texture and flavor–I find that farmed shrimp tend to be mushy and metallic.
Amounts in the recipe are for main dish servings, but this also makes a great appetizer. You can plate the shrimp around a small bowl of the relish, and let people help themselves. I like to eat the crispy tails, but not everyone enjoys that, so be sure to put out a “tail bowl” if you do this for a party.
Thanks for reading,