Magic Dragon Fried Shrimp

  • Prep Time
    1 Hour
  • Cook Time
    15 minutes
  • Serving
  • View

Magic Dragon Fried Shrimp Recipe Overview

Been craving a fried shrimp or dragon shrimp dish lately?

My latest obsession is Chinese cookbooks from the 60’s and 70’s.  You can find some fantastic first editions on Ebay for a pittance. This was a time period when American home cooks were just beginning to realize they could duplicate their favorite Chinese restaurant dishes at home.

Admittedly, this Magic Dragon Shrimp recipe is Chinese-American cuisine, not necessarily authentic Chinese food but the kind of cooking that Chinese immigrants brought to America and adapted to their new environment. 

In many of these vintage cookbooks, the writers assume that a home cook may not own a wok or be able to source good rice wine. As a result, recipes for fried dragon shrimp and other dishes within these cookbooks are adjusted accordingly.


Puffy Shrimp


    Magic Dragon Shrimp Recipe

    I named this dish Magic Dragon Shrimp because Mr. Lee called his fried shrimp recipe, "Puff Shrimp," (Fau Jah Ha in Chinese).  This reminded me of Puff the Magic Dragon, and indeed it was a little magical to see the fried shrimp puff up in the hot Magic Dragon Shrimp seemed the perfect description of this special dish.

    How to Make Chinese Fried Shrimp:

    Follow the steps below for the delicious Chinese fried shrimp recipe:

    Step 1

    Preparing the Dragon Shrimp

    First, you should clean and devein them while leaving the tails intact. Butterfly them by slicing down the underside but not all the way through. Flatten the dragon shrimp with the palm of your hand just a bit. Be sure to pat them dry. Set aside in the refrigerator if you are not cooking right away. About 10 minutes before you fry them, take them out and sprinkle the garlic juice and salt and MSG over them. Rub that into the dragon shrimp with your fingers.

    Step 2

    Making the Batter

    Next, make the batter (while you heat your oil in the wok). Pour the flour in a bowl. Add the baking powder and salt and stir with a fork. Then add the oil slowly while stirring constantly. When the "dough" pulls away from the sides of the bowl, add the water a little bit at a time, until you have a batter that is the consistency of pancake batter. You can add a little water if necessary.

    Step 3

    Heating the Oil

    The next step of the Dragon fried shrimp recipe is to heat about 3 inches of oil in the wok over medium high heat. When the oil is hot enough, a drop of batter will rise to the surface and puff up.

    Step 4

    Dipping & Frying the Shrimp

    Now, dip each shrimp into the batter one at a time, letting the excess batter drip off. Then hold the dragon shrimp by the tail and slip it into the hot oil. Don't put too many shrimp into the oil at once because the temperature of the oil will drop. Adjust the temperature of the oil to keep it hot while you fry all the shrimp.


    Serving Your Magic Dragon Shrimp

    Your Magic Dragon fried shrimp dish is complete! Serve on shredded lettuce with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt. I used MSG in this Dragon shrimp recipe, and all I know is that the light fluffy coating had a unique savory taste. I did not have a hot flash or a headache as a consequence of eating this dish. This recipe is taken from Mr. Lee's cookbook, and it is important to follow it precisely.

    The technique for making the batter is unusual but produces the puffiest, fluffiest coating I have ever experienced on a Chinese fried shrimp. I was skeptical that the shrimp would not require a sauce, but Mr. Lee was right! They were perfect with a sprinkle of pink salt and a squeeze of lemon. The dragon shrimp themselves must be fresh and high quality. Of course, this is easy if you live in New Orleans!

    A Word on Using MSG for this Chinese Fried Dragon Shrimp Recipe

    Interestingly, the use of MSG for dragon shrimp recipes and other dishes, is an ingredient which seems to be much maligned these days for causing hot flashes and headaches (according to my sister) was taken for granted, whereas in the modern Chinese cookbooks, there's hardly a mention of MSG.

    In his 1968, "Chinese Cook Book," Jim Lee explained,"Monosodium Glutamate is a white powder which looks like granulated sugar. It has been widely accepted as a flavor aid in cooking by restaurants, food processors, and home cooks alike. It is almost impossible not to have eaten a bit of it during an average day. Monosodium Glutamate has an interesting history. It was first made by the Chinese and Japanese by evaporating liquids from cooked shrimps and fish. Then the Japanese synthesized it from soybeans. The United States then started manufacturing it on a large scale and is now the biggest producer of it in the world. What does this magic powder do to foods? No one seems to be certain, scientifically. But for cooks the effect it has on food in bringing out the flavor is unquestioned. It does not give its taste to the food but seems to blend with and enhance every kind of food - even vegetables and fruits."

    Chinese Magic Dragon Fried Shrimp FAQs

    Here are some common questions people ask about making fried shrimp:

    What is dragon shrimp?

    Dragon shrimp in culinary refers to a recipe that features large, succulent shrimp as the star ingredient, often prepared with bold and flavorful seasonings that evoke the 'fire' associated with dragons. This dish is typically made using jumbo shrimps, which are marinated in a mix of spicy and aromatic ingredients like garlic, chili flakes, paprika, and sometimes a hint of citrus to add a tangy zest. The shrimp are then either fried, grilled, or sautéed until they achieve a rich, reddish hue, which is a nod to the mythical dragon's fiery nature.

    Dragon shrimp is often served with a side of vegetables or over a bed of rice or pasta to complement the intense flavors of the dish. The combination of the heat from the spices and the natural sweetness of the dragon shrimp makes this dish a favorite among seafood and spice enthusiasts.

    How to make Chinese fried shrimp?

    For your Chinese fried shrimp recipe, you will need 12 large shrimp, garlic juice, salt, MSG (as an accent), peanut oil (for frying), white bleached flour, baking powder, Crisco oil, and water. The first step is to prepare the shrimp. Then, make the batter by pouring the flour in the bowl, and adding in the baking powder and salt.

    Add in the water a little bit at a time and then stir until you get a nice batter. Heat about 3" of oil in the wok and then dip each of the fried shrimp into the batter one at a time. When finished, you should serve the Chinese fried shrimp with shredded lettuce, lemon wedges, and a sprinkle of pink salt.

    What to serve with fried shrimp?

    Chinese fried shrimp can be paired with a range of side dishes, whether it's served as an appetizer or as a dinner. A popular choice is Chow Mein, a noodle dish with stir-fried vegetables and a savory sauce, which complements the texture of the dragon fried shrimp. Steamed white rice is another excellent choice, offering a mild and fluffy base that balances the rich flavors of the shrimp. You can also consider stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and peas, which add both color and a nutritious crunch to the meal.

    Fried rice, an all-time favorite, can be a hearty and satisfying side, especially when it includes a mix of eggs, vegetables, and a hint of soy sauce. Noodles, whether thin rice noodles or thicker wheat varieties, tossed in a light sauce, make for a delightful pairing with the crispy shrimp. Asian slaw, with its crisp texture and tangy dressing, provides a refreshing contrast to the fried shrimp. Lastly, a sweet and sour sauce, either drizzled over the shrimp or served on the side for dipping, enhances the dish with its dynamic blend of flavors, adding a delightful sweet tanginess that complements the shrimp's savory taste.

    How to reheat fried shrimp?

    To reheat your Chinese fried shrimp, you should 1.) preheat your oven to 350°F, 2.) line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease to prevent the shrimp from sticking, and 3.) arrange the shrimp onto the sheet and place into the oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use an air fryer. The air fryer excels in reheating fried foods while keeping them crispy.

    To reheat in an air fryer, preheat it if your model requires. Arrange the shrimp in the air fryer basket in a single layer, again ensuring they aren’t overlapping. Set the air fryer to a moderate temperature, around 350°F (175°C), and reheat the shrimp for approximately 3-4 minutes. Keep an eye on them to avoid overcooking. This method is faster than the oven and often yields a texture that is very close to freshly fried shrimp

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