Spicy Garlic Shrimp

June 18, 2010 § 11 Comments

My favorite way to eat shrimp is stir fried. It’s quick to throw together and so easy to adjust to whatever you’re in the mood for and have on hand. This recipe is one of my all-time favorite shrimp dishes adapted from my Mom’s recipe and can be done in 15 minutes or less. Lickety split! I joked with the Mister that if I had a shrimp truck, this would to be the house truck special dish.

It’s a great recipe on 2-folds. One, the shrimp is utterly addictive. Two, eliminate or substitute one or two ingredients for a completely different dish that’s equally addictive. The dish has a slight heat to it if using fresh chili peppers and as always, adjust the heat to your liking. The Mister requested this be even hotter next time so I will throw in more red chili pepper flakes as well saute the chilis in the oil longer.  I used Serrano chilis in this since it’s what I have in the garden right now. It will work just as nice with fresh red chili pepper, jalapeno, Thai chili, you get the idea. If you don’t have fresh chili, you can use whole dried red chili broken in half or thirds.

I often will use the stem on fresh hot chili (assuming it still has a stem) as a handle while cutting it. I hold the stem in one hand and slice with the other. I think it’s prevented a lot of eye and nose irritation. But gloves always do the trick too, just don’t touch your face while you still have the gloves on.

The ingredients with the asterisk are the ingredients that can be swapped or eliminated to create a different dish. Notes on that at the end of the recipe.

Update: The original recipe calls for shell on the shrimp. I recently made this without the shells and it was just as good!  I also stir fried the chilis in oil before adding the garlic and scallions to release more heat. It was a little bit hotter but not as much as I had hoped. So for those who like a good amount of heat (say maybe a “5” heat rating in Thai food), I would recommend adding more chili peppers dried and/or fresh.

Serves 6 in a multi-dish meal (or in our case, 2 very hungry adults as the main course)

Spicy Garlic Shrimp


  • 1 lb shrimp, deveined with shell on (or if you prefer, shelled)
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2-3 fresh Serrano chili, sliced or diced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp cooking oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp sugar*
  • 2 Tbsp water*

Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Combine egg white and rice flour to form a paste. Mix shrimp with paste coating each shrimp well and set aside.

Mix the sugar and water together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat wok and add 3 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Fry the shrimp for about 2 minutes until the shell is crispy. I do this in batches, flipping the shrimp at the 1-minute mark. Remove  to paper towel and drain.

Once all the shrimp have been fried, remove the oil from the wok. Reheat the wok and add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add Serrano chili, red chili flakes, garlic and scallions to oil and stir fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add sugar water and cook for about 30 seconds. Add shrimp, salt and ground black pepper and stir quickly to coat everything. Serve hot.

To increase the heat, stir fry the chilis first in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes. Then add the garlic and scallions and continue with remaining instructions.

Here’s a closer look at the dish. All that chili and garlic, yom yom yom!

* Three tablespoon of sugar may seem like a lot but this dish isn’t overly sweet. It gives just enough sweetness to balance out the heat. The sugar and water can be eliminated for a savory salty dish. I would recommend increasing the ground black pepper in that case.

For another twist, eliminate the sugar and water and add a dash of Chinese 5 Spices at the final tossing.

This dish can also be made into a sweet and sour spicy dish. Add 2 tablespoon of white vinegar with the sugar and water to give it that tang. The vinegar can be increased if you’re especially fond of extra tanginess.

There you have it. A 4-fer recipe to meet whatever taste you’re in the mood for. Now pass me a shrimp and a napkin.

§ 11 Responses to Spicy Garlic Shrimp

  • Faye says:

    Oh this looks so good! How is it w/ the shrimp shell still on? Can you do it w/o the shell? I always get nervous about choking on the shell (this is from past experiences – eating them too fast and all!).

    Do you think the chili flakes really add heat? I always try to use tons of flakes in my recipes but it never gives it that ‘umphh’ i’m looking for (if that makes sense). And how’d you fry the garlic w/o burning them – was the heat on medium?

    Great recipe!

    • CAB says:

      Okay Faye, I tried it with shelled shrimp and it worked really well! As a matter of fact, I think I’ll be making this with shelled shrimp from now on.

  • CAB says:

    Hi Faye! I’m making these again tonight and I’m going to try them shelled but with the tail still on to see how that goes. My mom has always made these with shell on and from what I’ve seen in other recipes where the shrimp is cooked in this fashion, the shell is usually on. I’m not sure why but I’m wondering if it’s because of light coating.
    BTW, I peel the shell off with my hands before eating it. I hate it when parts of the shell gets stuck in my throat, yuck!

    I’m going to saute the fresh chili and the chili flakes longer in the oil tonight to see if I can give it even more heat without adding a ton more chili. I’ve stir fried dried red chili before in other stir fried that added a good amount of heat. I’ll update on the results.

    As far as the garlic, I had the heat on medium-high the whole time. I stir the garlic around the whole time to prevent it from burning. If it looks like it’s starting to brown, take the pan/wok off the heat a bit or add just a bit more oil to do a fast cool down. Hope this helps.

  • mike says:

    Looks great – let me know when you open that shrimp truck!

  • kmylml says:

    Oh! That looks so delicious! I would leave the shell on the shrimp if I had a wok and a high heat source because frying the shell makes it easier to eat. I think I’ll try this recipe on my dinky stove with the shell off. Thanks for sharing!

    • CAB says:

      Hi kmylml! I’m so addicted to this dish. It is a bit different with the shell on but I enjoy it both ways. Shell off does appeal to the laziness in me, tho. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

  • Liz says:

    This looks great! I’m a fan of shrimp with the shell on.

    • CAB says:

      Hi Liz! We really enjoy this dish. I just bought some more shell-on shrimp to make this dish again. The shell can really add a lot of flavor in certain dishes.

  • Mary says:

    Oh that shrimp looks so tasty! I love shrimp so much. I’ll have to try this version out some time.

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