Citizens, this just might be one of my favorite shrimp recipes of all time! 😀
In Hong Kong, a typhoon shelter is in the form of a bay or a cove, with a narrow opening for access. A typhoon shelter, as its name suggests, is used by small to medium ships as a shelter against gale force winds and rough seas during a typhoon strike.
Typhoon shelter seafood, an iconic dish now served in many Hong Kong Chinese restaurants, is believed to have originated from the people living in these typhoon shelters. It is commonly prepared with crab meat or shrimp, served under a veritable mountain of fried garlic, scallion and red chili.
Before the 1990s, there was a fairly large population living on boats in typhoon shelters. Many of them were the descendants of fishermen or boat people. They developed a distinct culture that is different from the mainstream cultures found in Hong Kong. The culture is, by many definitions, a fully developed one, with its own language, wedding rituals and other things such as food, songs and superstitions.
The life and culture of the descendants of these fishermen has often been glamourized, and effectively hid the truth of the extreme poverty that existed among these people. That said, their cuisine became the stuff of Hong Kong legend!
Citizens – this dish is supremely savory and redolent with enough garlic to chase away the undead for at least a year! 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
30 cloves garlic – YES, I said 30!!! – minced
6 tbsp minced fermented black beans -黑豆豆豉, Pinyin: hēidòu dòuchǐ (optional but strongly recommended)
1 ½ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground Sichuan pepper (optional but strongly recommended)
12 extra large/16 medium of shell-on, head-on shrimps
4 tbsp of all-purpose flour + 4 tbsp of fine cornmeal
12 dried chiles de arbol (more if you’d like it spicier), cut into small pieces
4 large scallions, cut into pieces
2 tsp of top-quality fish sauce
Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
To make the fried garlic: Pulse the peeled garlic cloves and black beans in a food-processor until finely minced (minced, NOT pureed!). On the side, set up a large fine sieve resting over a large bowl. Warm up 1 cup of vegetable oil in a wok/pot over medium-high heat.
Lower the heat down to medium, then add all the garlic at once. Keep stirring and keep stirring with a wooden spoon (don’t stop stirring or the garlics close to the edge of the wok/pot will brown faster) until the garlic starts to turn pale-golden (think lightly roasted peanuts).
Turn off the heat completely at this point, and keep stirring with the residual heat. Once the garlic colors into light-golden, immediately drain them through the fine sieve. You want to remove the garlic from the heat just a little earlier than you think, because they will continue to darken into medium-golden once drained. Any darker than a medium golden-brown will taste bitter.
The fried garlic could be very sticky after cooking, so break it up with a fork and divide in half. Reserve the garlic oil.
Mix the fried garlic with white pepper, black pepper and Sichuan pepper. Set aside. Have all the dried chili, scallions and fish sauce ready on the side.
Use a scissor to cut the shrimp-shells open along the back, all the way to the tails.
Devein the shrimp, put in heavily salted ice water with a large splash of shaoxing rice wine for 20 minutes, then drain (this firms up the shrimp meat and seasons it as well). Evenly mix together 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour and 2 tbsp of fine cornmeal, season with a small pinch of salt. Light coat the shell of the shrimp in the flour-mixture, then dust off any excess flour. Set aside.
Heat up 3 tbsp of the reserved garlic oil in a wok/deep skillet on high heat until smoking. Lay the shrimps flat on one side in the wok/skillet to fry, then don’t move them. Once the first side is blistered and crispy, add the diced dried chili and turn them over to fry the other side. It’s important not to stir them or move them around too much, otherwise they won’t fry properly.
Once both sides are crispy, add the scallions and ½ tsp of fish sauce plus some shaoxing to taste, stir gently and cook until the scallions have just wilted. Now add the fried garlic-mixture (as much as you like of it, to taste – freeze the rest and use for next time!) and the remaining ½ tsp of fish sauce and turn off the heat. Fold gently again to have everything combined.
Serve immediately, and spoon any excess garlic over rice or congee.