Last week, I called my Mom asking for advice on what to cook for Chinese New Year. She rattled off dozens of dishes with commentary on what each dish means, techniques to pay special attention to and specific ingredient requirements.
I furiously scribbled six pages of notes, as this is the most important holiday of the year for many Asians. How you begin the new year is a reflection of how the rest of the year will flow.
And, honey, after the turbulent Year of the Rat last year, I didn’t want to mess it up. (Well, not too badly, anyways.)
This year, Chinese New Year begins on Monday, January 26th, and according to Mom, there are several must-have dishes, with Happy Shrimp Stir Fry at the top of the list.
Shrimp in Chinese is pronounced “haa” which of course, symbolizes happiness as it sounds like laughter. In fact, Mom recited off the recipe for this dish called “Hee-Hee-Haa-Haa” which I’m translating to “Damn Happy Laughin’ Shrimp.”
Or more formally known as “Happy Shrimp Stir Fry.”
Its red color is important, as it is the main color of Chinese New Year, meant to scare away the evil spirits. And, if you think the lettuce and green onion is optional garnish, you are wrong. Mom wants me to make sure that I tell you this shrimp dish must have a contrasting color, especially for Chinese New Year. She says that everything should be bright, vibrant and colorful….and let me tell you, I never, ever, doubt my Mom when it comes to Chinese traditions and superstitions. Chinese mamas always know best!
Gong Hay Faat Choy!
For the sauce (mix together in a bowl)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
For the shrimp
- 1 pound raw shrimp, deveined
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or peanut cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced green onion
- Handful of shredded iceberg lettuce
1 Pat the shrimp very dry and place them in a bowl. Toss with the cornstarch.
2 Heat a wok or large frying pan on high heat until a bead of water instantly sizzles and evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the cornstarch coated shrimp to the wok and spread out in one layer. Let fry untouched for 1 minute. Flip and fry other side for another minute. Remove the shrimp from the frying pan, keeping as much oil in the pan as possible.
3 Return the pan to the stove. Add an additional teaspoon of cooking oil to the pan if needed. When the pan is hot, turn the heat to medium and add the garlic and the ginger and fry for 15-30 seconds until fragrant.
4 Pour in the sauce mixture and bring to boil. Add the cooked shrimp back into the wok and let simmer for an additional minute until the shrimp are cooked through. Serve on bed of shredded lettuce and top with garnish of sliced green onions.