Sticky, sweet and crispy shrimp from Lao Beijing (photo: Joseph Storch)
I have to admit, when we were sitting with a large group of friends at Lao Beijing last month, I was fully expecting to go with noodles, lots of stir-fried greens and maybe some potstickers or sweet and sour chicken for the five kids at the table. One of my friends insisted we get the crispy shrimp. Really? How good can fried shrimp be in Chinatown? Apparently, bordering on addictive, since our table ordered another two plates of it.
The plump shrimp somehow maintained their internal texture (they were also de-veined; nice touch), but the exterior had a perfectly crisp shell without going overboard on the breading. And the sauce! Holy cow. What at first tasted like sweetened, condensed milk, proved to be something completely different: a lemon syrup - made from fresh lemon juice and granulated sugar - combined with mayo.
Once the shrimp is tossed in a generous amount of cornstarch, bound together by a little bit of egg white, they're fried in vegetable oil at high heat. After just a few minutes, they're removed and immediately tossed into the bizarro sauce, which gives it a sweet richness that is heightened by the lemony citrus. Better order two plates, since I'm going to hoard one all by myself...
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