There are so many new books I want to write about before the holiday season is over, and then along comes another one — The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan of Appetite for China. She threw a little lauch party the other night at 61 Local, and I stopped by to get a copy. For a change I actually paid for the book with my own money, so I get to say whatever I want about it, right? Well, Diana is my friend, so once again you can’t trust what I have to say. But trust me anyway — it’s a great cookbook for anyone who is tired of crappy takeout Chinese. Not only is it way cheaper to make this kind of food at home, but from personal experience I can now say it tastes way better to make it yourself too. And it’s easy too, so easy that I whipped up this Sweet Chili Shrimp for dinner on the same night of the party, after I got home at about 9:30 p.m. Of course I had to tweak the recipe a bit to make it gluten-free, and I had to make a few substitutions based on what I had in the house (so lucky I had some frozen shrimp). It still turned out great, and for me, that’s the real test of a cookbook. A good recipe is one that can handle some improvisation. This recipe is really good.
For the sauce I used gluten-free soy sauce of course, and I wasn’t totally sure what kind of chili sauce Diana was calling for in the recipe, so I used some sambal oelek. You whip the sauce ingredients and put them aside. The shrimp is tossed with cornstarch, salt, and pepper — that was safe for me to eat.
The recipe calls for fresh ginger, and this is where Diana will read this post and cringe. I didn’t have any fresh ginger. I didn’t have the shallots called for in the recipe either. I did have scallions, so I chopped up some of the whites for the stir-frying stage, which goes really fast.
Once the shrimp is cooked, you pour in the sweet and spicy sauce. (I’m deliberately not telling you all of the ingredients because I want you to buy the book!) For serving, I topped the dish with chopped scallion greens. And because I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table, I served the whole thing over some rice noodles. It took me about 20 minutes total, including boiling the noodles, prep, everything. That’s fast. And yummy. Really yummy.