Stir-fried food is the ultimate fast food, taking literally less than 5 minutes from hot oil to finished dish. Obviously, that means that once you start cooking things move fast so you need to be well organised and have all your ingredients weighed-out, measured and chopped before you even think about turning on the gas. Though the ingredients list looks long there really isn’t much to it, and preparation should only take 15 minutes even if you take your time.
I made this a couple of nights ago; once we had used our fingers to clean every last drop of sauce from our bowls – and the wok, and the serving spoon – my wife said that she didn’t like Chinese food, but she loved this. What she really meant was that she loves Chinese food, real Chinese food, but she doesn’t like the food that you get from Chinese takeaways.
If Chinese takeaway food is your only experience of Chinese-style cooking then you are in for an extremely pleasant surprise, and this dish is an excellent way in to a delicious, filling and healthy cuisine. All the ingredients are readily available from UK supermarkets, so please don’t try and substitute say, black peppercorns for the Sichuan peppercorns, they are very different and it is the interplay of the various aromatic components of the sauce that make this such an amazing dish.
This is excellent served with Beijing rice, or your favourite noodles.
RECIPE – feeds 2
For the crispy prawns:
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns, dry-fried and ground
a good pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp cornflour
12 large raw king prawns, tails on
6 tbsp groundnut oil
For the stir-fry:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped (seeds left in if you like it hot)
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, chopped into 1.5 cm chunks
For the sauce:
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
For the garnish:
a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks, chopped
a small handful of dry-roasted peanuts (optional)
In a large, NOT non-stick pan over a high heat, dry-roast the sichuan peppercorns until they are aromatic. Be careful not to scorch them, then turn them out on to a plate to cool.
Prepare all the other ingredients.
Once the Sichuan peppercorns are cool, use a small coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind them to a fine powder. In a large shallow dish combine with the cornflour and salt then roll the prawns in the mix until they are thoroughly coated, set aside for now.
Combine the sauce ingredients, set aside.
Heat a wok over a high heat, when hot add the 6 tbsp of groundnut oil and swirl it around the wok to coat all surfaces. Get it very hot then add the prawns, cook for about one minute, the prawns should be just turning pink. Remove from the heat and quickly, using a slotted spoon or ‘spider’ (a large open-mesh spoon, used a lot in oriental and wok cooking), remove the prawns from the wok and set aside on a plate.
Reheat the oil, add the chilli and garlic and stir fry for around 15 seconds, then add the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute then add the sauce and bring to the boil, put the prawns back in the sauce and remove from the heat. Garnish in the wok, and serve.
I promise, you will fall in love with this dish.