RECIPE: Easy shrimp with a Sichuan twist

Sichuan Salt and Pepper Shrimp on a mixed green salad
(Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Sichuan Salt and Pepper Shrimp on a mixed green salad (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Shrimp are a fantastic lean protein for getting dinner on the table in a hurry. This quick and flavorful recipe is inspired by Grace Young, the activist, humanitarian, historian, and award-winning cookbook author lovingly known as the “Stir-Fry Guru.”

The Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe are not like the black peppercorns you may find in a traditional pepper mill. Instead, they are the seed husks from a citrus tree. Sichuan peppercorns are fruity, fragrant, and have a mild numbing effect on the lips and tongue with citrus undertones. It’s a signature characteristic and what has made Sichuan peppercorns famous. Sichuan peppercorns are sold whole and ground, in well-stocked grocery stores, Asian markets and online. If you are unable to find ground, you can purchase whole to toast and grind at home.

Shrimp season in Georgia usually starts in late spring or early summer and lasts until about December. If you aren’t on a dock or at the beach, keep in mind that, when buying shrimp, the odor is a good indicator of freshness. Quality shrimp have a slight saltwater aroma, while deteriorating shrimp can smell overly fishy and sometimes a bit like ammonia.

The quick brining technique with the shrimp and salt keeps the shrimp nice and moist as they cook, delivering a crisp, firm texture. Make certain to pat the shrimp dry before stir-frying. Cooking with wet shrimp will turn your stir-fry into a salty, wet braise. Lastly, shrimp will turn from tender and toothsome to overcooked rubbery balls in mere seconds. As soon as they begin to turn white and develop that iconic pink hue, it’s time to pull them from the heat.

Sichuan Salt and Pepper Shrimp

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