How do you make shrimp crunchy? More precisely, how do you make shrimp Chinese-restaurant-crunchy?
I’ve been obsessed with this subject matter for the longest time–a topic that took me a while to research. If you’ve tried dim sum or shrimp dishes in Chinese restaurants, you know exactly what I mean–shrimp so crunchy they give a mouth feel that they “bounce” in your mouth as you sink your teeth into the firm flesh. In Chinese, it’s called 爽脆 (shuangcui).
Great Chinese food is all about texture and mouth feel (口感) of everyday ingredients, the most basic skill that a good Chinese chef should acquire.
My uncle in Hong Kong is a huge connoisseur and a fantastic cook; he taught me the secret technique which he learned from a Cantonese top chef in Hong Kong–water.
Yes, cold running water to rinse shrimp (up to hours) until the flesh firms up and becomes translucent. I have later confirmed this technique with a few kitchen workers in Chinese restaurants, and yes, it’s true…(learn the secret technique of making shrimp crunchy after the jump)
I tried the cold running water technique at home and it works. However, it’s not ideal for home cooking because too much water is wasted during the treatment process. I resolved to research further for an alternative method best for home cooks.
When I was in Beijing this June, I chanced upon a great Chinese cookbook with the best step-by-step picture guide of making har gow or shrimp dumplings.
It reveals that a pH9 alkaline water is the secret behind crunchy shrimp, and a light massage while marinating pretty much does the trick. The PH9 clue intrigues me.
I came back and went to my favorite Chinese restaurant in Irvine and investigated further. The chef told me that they don’t use alkaline water, but swear by the process of marinating shrimp with egg white, tapioca starch (菱粉) and baking soda, a process they called “上浆” (shangjiang) or literally “coating with starch.”
I researched further about pH9–which is a scientific measure of the acidity of a solution. Anything that is more than pH7 is alkaline. I found out that tap water–depending on its source, origin, or location–is usually close to pH9, which explains the reason why cold running water is used by Cantonese chefs.
Sea water is pH8 and the reason why live/raw shrimps have firm and crunchy flesh. I also learned that baking soda and egg white are both pH8. At that point, everything becomes crystal clear to me.
So, here it is, the technique that you’ve been waiting for–a well-protected “trade secret” used by Chinese and Cantonese chefs to treat their shrimp, which I have adapted and modified for home use.
I’ve tested it many times in my kitchen and it never fails me. I made my shrimp and chive dumplings with texture exactly like the ones served at dim sum restaurants.
I made a stir-fry shrimp dish and the shrimp bounced in my mouth and “crunched” as I bit into the flesh. This technique works like a miracle!
If you know another technique that works well, please share with me via comments! Otherwise, try my method below and you will be serving jumpy, bouncy, and crunchy shrimp in no time!
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How Many Calories per Serving?
This recipe is only 117 calories per serving.
What Dishes to Serve with This Recipe?
For a wholesome meal and easy weeknight dinner, I recommend the following recipes.
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- 1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca starch (菱粉)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- Peel, slit the back of shrimp, and remove veins
- Transfer shrimp into a big deep bowl and add ice cold water from your fridge--you can also use regular tap water and add some ice cubes to it. Make sure the shrimp are submerged in water.
- Add 1 heap tablespoon of baking soda into the bowl and lightly massage the shrimp with the baking soda water. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Rinse the shrimp thoroughly with cold running water.
- Pat dry with paper towels. By now, you should see that the shrimp become somewhat translucent in appearance.
- Add egg white and tapioca starch to the shrimp. Use your hand to blend well while lightly massaging the shrimp.
- Cover the shrimp with plastic wrap and marinate overnight. Cook your shrimp without washing the marinade.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.
So after marinating the prawns with the tapioca starch and egg white overnight, do you need to wash the prawns again in cold running to remove the tapioca starch and egg white before using the prawns for cooking?
No, just cooked.
Ok…no need to reply.answer is found in the earlier comments asked by others. Suggest you add that last step that there is no need to wash away the marinade. Thank you.
Re baking soda to make fried foods “light and airy” and refer to your S/S Chicken Recipe. However, the S/S Chicken recipe lists baking POWDER. Which is correct? Baking SODA or POWDER?
Both are fine. Baking powder is mainly baking soda + a little bit of corn starch.
I just tried your banana cake recipe. It was super. It was so easy to follow. Thank you.
Hi Helga, awesome. Please try more recipes on my site: https://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-index-gallery/
Question please , the crunchy shrimp method works with thawed frozen shrimp?
I learned from my aunt that a good coating and massaging of corn starch on raw cold shrimp and rinsing with cold water just after the 3minute massage also does the trick for bouncy springy shrimp flesh. I use it for our hot pot preparation and dumplings.
Hi! Interested with this other method. Can you share the steps on how to go about this? Planning to make some prawn dumplings. :) thank you so much!
After marinating process, do you rinse shrimp before cooking?
No. Just cook.
In Step 2 – do you let it stand for sometimes after adding cold water?
In Step 3 – is the baking soda added when the shrimp still soaking in water or after draining?
Do you have to wash the shrimps before cooking after you have marinated them in tapioca starch and egg white?
No need to wash, just cook.
Hi thanks for all your tips
How do I keep them crunchy for prawn curry ? Can I cook the curry a day ahead, refrigerate and then add the prawns when heating up before serving?
Yes, you can reheat before serving. For curry you just treat the shrimp the same way and don’t overcook.
Thanks sister, I have been wondering why my shimps never have that crunchy bite, no matter how fresh I prepared them. I really appreciate your ernest hard research and now I understand why my was alway bite like cotton wool. All the wasted efforts and cost. It will always taste good from now on.
Thanks again. I don’t do face book media etc. I don’t want to leave my email as I am inundated with too many emails already. So please excuse me. H.
How much baking soda to add to a dish of ice water and, say, 1lb shrimp?
Hi! Does this method apply to prawns with shell and heads on and are to be used for boiling? Thanks
Only to peeled prawn.