Sunday, September 18, 2011

Simple Stir-fry

Living alone is definitely not easy. Especially when I'm cooking for myself. My friend Lukas noticed yesterday that my fridge is very sparse. That is true, however, it is also because I buy my groceries on pretty much a day by day basis. Since I am a full time student, my work and reading schedule is not very regular, and I never know when I will have the time to prepare a decent meal. 

So today, I went out and bought half a pound of shrimp. I have quite a love hate relationship with shrimp. First off, shrimp is one of my favorite foods of all time. However, preparing shrimp is a pain. I think I've spent more than a handful of hours peeling and de-veining shrimp this summer. However, the results are usually worth it and it's a good time for character building and self reflection. 

Shrimp and Cellophane Noodle Stir Fry
These ingredients are enough for one very hungry person or two moderately hungry people, or as a dish served with rice on the side, in which case you would want to double the amount of shrimp. 
1 pack cellophane noodles (100g or 3.5oz)
5-6 pc dried mushroom
1/2 lb shrimp
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of spring onion
Soy Sauce
Salt, pepper
Sesame Oil
Vegetable Oil
3-4oz Chicken broth

First off, if you want to include the dried mushrooms in this dish (it definitely adds a lot of aroma), let it sit in water with a loose cover for at least 2 hours before preparation. This is to rehydrate the mushrooms so that you're not chewing anything resembling cardboard during your meal. 

Prepare the cellophane noodles (粉絲) by letting them sit in room temperature water for at least half an hour.  The best thing to do is to soak the cellophane noodles just before the rest of your preparations, so that it will be ready when you start the actual cooking. 
When purchasing cellophane noodles, the packaging will most likely say vermicelli, but be sure to not confuse it with rice vermicelli (米粉) upon your purchase. Cellophane noodles are made with mung bean starch and are considerably low in calorie for a carbohydrate. 

Next comes the shrimp. As previously mentioned, shrimp needs to be de-shelled and de-veined. I usually purchase shrimp in seafood markets where they come headless and on a bed of ice (Unless I'm serving steamed shrimp, which in that case I would purchase live shrimp). It should be about $5.99 a pound.  After the shrimps are peeled and veinless, chop them into halves or thirds depending on the size. Then season with some salt, pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil, and cornstarch. Here's the thing about shrimp: (and a lot of other meat) it will exude juices when you cook. Therefore, to keep the juice inside, you should toss about a teaspoon of cornstarch into your seasoning so that the meat will remain succulent after cooking. 

Next comes preparing all the other ingredients that go into the stir fry. Chop the garlic, spring onion, and mushroom into fine pieces and set aside and prepare the wok and cellophane noodles. 

My friend Winston recently purchased a wok, in which he seasoned himself, but I just got a non-stick wok, which comes in very handy when cooking things like eggs or shrimp! 

In a small separate pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Once it is ready, drain the cellophane noodles and toss them into the broth. Cellophane noodles are very absorbent, and if you don't pre-boil it or cook it with a high water exuding food, your dish will be very dry. This needs to be cooked only for a few minutes. Set aside for later use. 

So, once the wok is on high heat, pour in about two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil is boiling, dump in the garlic, spring onion, and mushroom and cook until it is slightly brown. Then add all the shrimp  into the wok and stir fry.  When the shrimp is half cooked, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and continue stir frying until the shrimp is cooked. 

When everything in the wok is done, extract the cellophane noodles from the pot and fold into the shrimp stir fry. 

Honestly, this meal was a bit of an experiment, but it turned out surprisingly delicious! 

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