Alright. I’m starting with the summary of this post before you even start reading… IT’S SUPER DELICIOUS!! YES. It’s fiery, spicy (in a good way), sticky, sweet, and savory… Hunan Shrimp!
Succulent shrimp laced in a chili paste-enhanced sauce with just a drizzle of this and a splash of that of some Asian staples. Add in whatever veggies you can think of, stir and fry for a few minutes and it’s ready to go over a bowlful of white rice.
There you go. The quick and easy way to cook those shrimps, my stir-fry lovers!
We are super excited to introduce this Hunan-style shrimp. You are going to be mighty excited too as you read along, as they are:
- Fast and Speedy. From the stovetop to your table in less than 30 minutes. Hmm… maybe 20 minutes. Max. So perfect for any day of the week.
- Versatile. You can mix & match what you have on hand when it comes to veggies.
- Addictive. You’ll be hooked on the combination of colors, textures, and flavors. As I said to Jason, this is something I can keep on eating even when I am full.
- Adjustable. Though it’s supposed to have some kick, you can adjust exactly how much heat you want.
Chinese cuisine is as diverse as their culture. Every region has its own cooking styles, ingredients, and flavors. The most prominent regional cuisines in China are Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang.
Many Westerners are familiar with the spicy red hot flavors of Sichuan cuisine, particularly the numbing flavor of Sichuan peppercorn that is rare in other regional cuisine. Though most of their dishes do have a little sweet and sour note too. It’s next-door neighbor, Hunan, is not that well known outside China, though it gives an equal punch in terms of flavor and hotness.
For lots of great Asian flavors, check out my compilation of the 50 Best Asian Recipes.
What makes the Hunan cooking style unique?
The Hunan province lies east of Sichuan province, a little further down the famous Yangtze River. People from both of these regions have a penchant for spicy, chili-laden dishes, Hunan a tad bit more so.
There are a few subtle differences that set Hunan apart from Sichuan. Sichuan tends to use more dried chilies, whereas the Hunan style mostly uses either fresh chilies or fermented chili pastes, resulting in fresh aromas and deep colors. Vinegar is another ingredient widely used in Hunan and takes precedence over the numbing spice of the peppercorns of Sichuan.
The famous chili paste that they make with fresh chili peppers, vinegar, and salt hails from this region. Hunan dishes also get strong flavors from the liberal use of garlic, ginger, and green onions. The Hunanese are also masters of fermentation. Their spicy, pickled vegetables are served with every meal.
So if you ask me.. Hunan food is Fun… Hot… Piquant… Sour… Umami… Addictive… All in one bowl!!
About Chili Paste
You want some hot Asian chili paste for this dish. There are several options. I am using Sambal Oelek, which is an Indonesian chili paste with ginger, garlic, and shallots. Another great option is Gochujang, a fermented Korean chili paste. This is a little hotter than Sambal Oelek.
You can also use Doubanjiang paste, made from chili peppers and fermented beans. They are all readily available in Asian grocery stores. In their absence, you can use Sriracha or even dried chili flakes.
For the stir fry
- Shrimp – Use jumbo or extra large for this one. You can use fresh or frozen.
- Bell peppers – Use multiple colored ones, they give a nice color to the dish.
- Aromatics – Ginger and garlic, plenty.
- Green onion – I feel every Asian dish is incomplete without these green goodies.
- Green beans – They go great with shrimp.
- Cornstarch – To give a little coating to the shrimp.
- Freshly cracked pepper
For that Ultimate Hunan sauce:
- Chili paste
- Oyster sauce – Gives great depth to Asian food. In its absence, you can increase the soy sauce
- Soy sauce – The soul of Asian cuisine.
- White rice vinegar – Can be substituted by regular vinegar.
- Chinese rice wine – Optional, but we always have a bottle around, as it imparts great authentic flavors.
- Ketchup – Yes. Not so original, but that tang is so great
How to make Hunan Shrimp
Like any other stir fry dish, this is super express fast. More so, as you are cooking shrimp which needs just a few minutes to cook. All you are doing is mixing all the ingredients of the sauce in a bowl. THE SAUCE IS THE HERO HERE.
Now the question is how much spice you want. Don’t close your mind thinking it’s hot and spicy so I won’t try it. The beauty of it is you can add as much or as little chili paste as you want. And remember, you are adding ketchup, vinegar, and sugar, so that adds tang and sweetness along with the heat.
Here is a basic guideline:
1 tsp for heat intolerant
2 tsp for mild
3-4 tsp for medium
5-6 tsp for relatively hot Hunan (sometimes I personally can go higher)
When mixing the sauce, add the chili paste in the end and taste after every spoonful. Taste and adjust…
Once the sauce is made, prep your shrimp by seasoning them with salt, freshly cracked pepper and a little cornstarch. Mix well so the shrimp are evenly coated.
Finely chop ginger and garlic. Dice the bell peppers and green beans to the shapes you like. Chop the green onions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Quick prep done.
Heat some oil in your wok and give a quick sauté to the shrimp, until they are pink and curled. Remove to a plate and set aside.
In the same wok, add all your veggies (only the white part of green onions) along with ginger and garlic and cook till they are slightly softened. You want some crunch. Add in the shrimp along with prepared Hunan sauce and mix everything well.
Treat yourself to a big pile of Hunan style shrimp over a bowlful of your favorite rice, of keep the fiery theme going and serve them with our Spicy Noodles. Grab those chopsticks and savor the flavors.
Swap the protein. Try Hunan chicken or Hunan beef. Equally delicious.
Any other veggies? Sure, any kind can work. Try broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, baby corn or snow peas. All are great companions to your shrimp. Add more or less veggies, it’s all good.
How to store leftovers
Personally, we like to eat prawns and seafood on the same day, as they taste so much better fresh. Saying that, it’s a great leftover for lunch the next day. Just refrigerate overnight in an airtight container. Though with this one, chances are there are no leftovers even for lunch!
For best quality, we don’t recommend freezing this one.
With my spicy DNA, this one’s a keeper for me. Try this stir fry, ready in about 20 minutes. Busy days and busy life doesn’t have to mean compromising on flavors and taste. We are always coming up with quick and easy ones for you.
While you’re here, check out my roundup of the best shrimp recipes.