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Kung Pao Shrimp

Kung Pao originated from southwest China and is pretty popular in the states. The classic version has peanuts, but I like substituting cashews for their crunch and flavor. A pinch of ground Szechuan peppercorn powder is traditional. Add it if you have it, but you'll be fine without it! Also you can substitute any meat, seafood, or tofu for the shrimp.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 20 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

4 to 6 chiles de arbol or other dried chiles

3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable or canola oil 

2/3 cup (150 g) whole roasted cashews

3 cloves garlic, chopped 

3 pounds (600 g) large shrimp, about 21 to 25, peeled and deveined  

1 red bell pepper, cut like French fries 

1 medium onion, cut into large dice 

1/3 cup (90 ml) oyster sauce 

2 tablespoons (30 ml) sambal oelek (an Asian chile paste), or more to taste 

1 teaspoon cornstarch 

1/4 cup (60 ml) chicken stock or water 

3 scallions, sliced 

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 

Ground white pepper 

Steamed rice, for serving

Directions

  1. In a small dry skillet, toast the dry chiles until they have deepened in color and have begun to release a toasty aroma, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over high heat for about 1 minute. When you see the first wisps of white smoke, swirl in the vegetable oil, cashews, garlic, and toasted chiles. Stir and scrape the pan until the garlic is light brown, about 30 seconds.  
  3. Toss the shrimp into the pan, stirring constantly, until the shrimp just starts to turn pink and everything starts to smell amazing, about 1 more minute. Add the bell pepper and onions, and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to turn translucent, about 1 minute.    
  4. Add the oyster sauce and sambal. Stir the cornstarch into the chicken stock to make a slurry, then add it to the pan. Stir well, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan to deglaze and incorporate them into the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. When the shrimp have just turned pink and opaque, meaning the shrimp are cooked through, turn off the heat. Sprinkle in the scallions, add the sesame oil and a pinch of white pepper. Stir everything in the pan to coat all the ingredients.   
  5. Serve immediately with steamed rice.