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For all that I write about on this site, you might think that my grandmother and I sit around plucking escargots every time we meet for lunch. But our true tradition is a hedonistic Chinese lunch, with fortune cookie reading-aloud time for dessert. And while some of our other dishes may change depending on the week, the one thing we always order is orange peel shrimp: sweet, spicy, savory, and tart all at once, it’s meaty and perfect and the kind of thing I always thought I could never in a million years recreate at home.
How wrong I was.
Thanks to the miracle of marmalade, a sweet-tart orange jam full of bitter citrus rind, I have come up with such an easy version, using stuff I always have on hand: frozen shrimp, honey, soy sauce, garlic. The sauce comes together in 3 minutes, and the shrimp in another 2. I serve the intensely flavored shrimp with plain white rice.
What makes marmalade such a perfect secret ingredient is twofold: flavor, and texture. One jar of high-quality marmalade combines bitterness and sweetness in a classic, time-tested balance that takes a lot of experience to achieve in kitchen. And the texture allows a certain stickiness in the sauce. In short, I imagine making this recipe without marmalade would require a lot more kitchen finesse than making it with it. And armed with this recipe, this week I can invite Mémé over to my house, instead of meeting her out at a restaurant. Now, if only I could master fortune cookies.
- 2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the angle, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade
- 2 teaspoons of honey (preferably orange blossom)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, plus 6 tablespoons
- Fine sea salt
- 2 pounds 11-15 count shrimp, peeled and deveined, dried on a paper towel
Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When oil just shimmers, add garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, and orange zest and cook for less than a minute.
Before the garlic can brown, add the marmalade, honey, and soy sauce to the skillet. Allow to bubble for 1 minutes.
Meanwhile, use a small whisk to combine the fresh orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the slurry to the skillet, and whisk continuously for 1 final minute, until sauce is thick. Set aside.
Toss the dry shrimp with the remaining cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Heat the remaining canola oil in a wok over medium heat until it is so hot that if you put the back of a wooden spoon in the oil, bubbles come up vigourously around it. Fry shrimp six at a time, on medium heat, for total of two minutes, until orange, curled, and slightly crisp. Drain on paper towel. Repeat for all 4 batches. Add more oil if necessary.
Toss shrimp with orange sauce. Garnish with fresh scallions and orange zest. Serve with plain white rice.
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