Jean Yueh’s Shanghai Shrimp

img_1769This month one of Wok Wednesdays featured recipes is Jean Yueh’s Shanghai Shrimp from “The Breath of a Wok.” I was planning on posting a little piece on Jean last week and had the idea that I would call her. It had been awhile since we last spoke and I thought she would enjoy knowing our group was about to cook her recipe. To my shock her phone number belongs to someone else. I tried checking FB and google for info on Jean, or her son Ted without luck. I sat staring at the photograph of Jean, Alan Richardson took for “Breath” and couldn’t believe I had no way of finding her again. It made sense that she had moved. When I visited her in 2002 for our cooking interview she lived in an enormous house.

I went back to my notebook and read through my notes from our cooking interview. She explained the Shanghai Shrimp is a common family dish. In Shanghai her family often ate this as a cold appetizer. The shrimp are stir-fried in the shell because the shrimp flavor is more intense with the shell.

Jean said, “When I was growing up in China it never occurred to me to go into the kitchen. I learned cooking in Hong Kong after receiving my master’s degree in chemistry. My parents had moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong. When I went to visit them I was bored. I needed to learn to cook for myself so I signed up for cooking lessons.” Her passion for cooking was ignited and by the time she moved to the United States Jean became a respected cooking teacher with a loyal following. She is the author of two Chinese cookbooks, “The Great Tastes of Chinese Cooking” and “Dim Sum and Chinese One-Dish Meals.”

Jean had a clever way of cutting the shells without removing them. She used kitchen shears to cut the shrimp “legs.” Then she made a cut 2/3’s of the way down the back side of the shrimp, just enough to expose the vein. She rinsed the shrimp under cold water and then patted them dry with paper towels.

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It’s a shock to most people that the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of sugar. After stir-frying ginger and scallions the shrimp are added and stir-fried briefly. Sherry is added, then soy sauce red wine vinegar and sugar and the shrimp are stir-fried for another 2 minutes. In that short amount of time the sauce reduces slightly and the sugar caramelizes into a mellow sweetness. The final touch is a little sesame oil. As Jean says the sauce is so good part of the pleasure is sucking the shells.

I still hope I will find Jean but in the meanwhile, enjoy her wonderful cooking. This is a magical dish.

PS If you cook the shrimp and post a photo on the Wok Wednesdays FB page you can enter our giveaway contest. The FB page gives you the complete rules for the contest.

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