Instructions: Drain shrimp well after rinsing. Do not remove shells. Grind peppercorns in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, and chop the garlic evenly.
Heat the oil in a wok. When it is hot and just before you are ready to fry, toss shrimps quickly with the coarsely ground pepper, chopped garlic, tapioca starch or corn starch and fish sauce. Use your hand to mix so that by touch you can make sure that all the shrimps are coated with a thin layer of the flour and that the white pepper and garlic are distributed evenly. The flour will help some of the garlic and pepper to stick to the shrimps during frying.
Test to make sure the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of garlic in it. It should sizzle and not sink to the bottom for some time before surfacing. It also should not burn in a matter of seconds - reduce heat if it does. Fry half the shrimps at a time. They should sizzle and turn golden, along with the loose garlic pieces, in a few minutes. Use a fork or a pair of chopsticks to separate those shrimps that are sticking together because of the stickiness of the flour.
Fry until garlic is brown and the shrimps crispy (about 3 minutes). Remove from oil with a slotted spoon or wire spatula (like the kind used in Chinese cooking) and allow to air-drain on a wire-mesh basket or colander balanced over a bowl. Air-cooling will allow the shrimps to stay crispy longer. Use a fine wire-mesh spatula to remove loose garlic pieces from the oil and spread them over the shrimps. Allow oil to reheat, testing again with a piece of garlic to make sure it is hot enough before frying the next batch.
Cool fried shrimps a minute or two and serve while warm on a platter lined with lettuce and encircled by tomato slices. Eat shrimps shell and all, including the crispy tails. Good as an appetizer, or serve with other courses family-style with a hot-and-sour or sweet-and-sour sauce.
Allow the oil to cool in the wok, then strain and store in an air-tight jar for future use. Refrigerate to keep fresh if you will not be using it again for some time. Because the oil picks up a shrimpy, garlicky and peppery flavor, it can be used with good results for stir-frying vegetables and seafood.
Notes and Pointers:
Do try eating the shrimps whole, shells, tails and all. In my ten years of teaching, Ive had only two students who could not force themselves to do so, and they definitely missed out. All who have tried crispy whole shrimps love them and make them frequently at home.
Peanut oil is one of the best oils for deep-frying because it can be heated to high temperatures without breaking down. The very hot oil quickly sears the outside surfaces and therefore does not penetrate into the food. After frying the batch of shrimps, you will have almost the same amount of oil left in the wok as when you started out. The crispy shrimps wont taste greasy as they would if you fried them in other types of oil.
If you prefer not to have shrimp shells as a natural source of calcium, this recipe can also be made with shelled shrimp. Fry only about thirty seconds to one minute, so that the shrimps stay juicy and tender. Without the shells, the shrimps will tend to taste a bit oilier. If you wish a crispy coating, roll the shrimps in bread crumbs before frying.
Author: Kasma Loha-unchit
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