A delectable dish with minimum preparation, shrimp and egg stir-fry brings out the best flavour and texture of these two common ingredients. This recipe includes tips that ensure an optimal result.
A classic Cantonese dish
A simple but delicate dish, shrimp and egg stir-fry is an unmistakable classic of Cantonese cuisine. The Chinese name of this dish Huá Dàn Xiā Rén/滑蛋虾仁 includes a descriptive word “Huá/滑”, meaning slippery and smooth, to emphasise the soft and silky texture of the egg.
I love its clean, uncomplicated look and its wonderful combination of tastes and texture. The egg is cooked to a fluffy, almost melt-in-your-mouth softness and delivers a savoury, aromatic flavour. Whereas the shrimp retains its natural sweetness and crunchy springiness.
Although very simple in terms of both ingredients and cooking process, this stir-fry dish requires good attention to detail if you wish to cook it to perfection.
Before writing this post, I’ve done quite a few taste tests and research in the scientific literature to explain the “why” and “how” of the dish. Finally, I’m happy to present this recipe.
Very simple Ingredients
Shrimp and egg stir-fry is a good example of “Less is more”, just like the classic Tomato and Egg Stir-fry. The ingredient list is very short and you won’t have any trouble sourcing them.
- Shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Eggs, ideally at room temperature
- Salt & white pepper
- Starch. It can be corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc.
- Sesame oil. Make sure it’s the Asian type that’s made of toasted sesame seeds.
How to cook it properly
Cooking shrimp and egg stir-fry takes no effort if you follow the correct procedure and understand the importance of heat control. Here are the steps as well as a few tips on how to get it right.
Season the shrimp
Put shrimp into a bowl then add salt, ground white pepper and starch. Mix with chopsticks until well combined.
🛎 Tip: This step helps to reduce the dampness of the shrimp (therefore reduce splashing when pan-frying) and to retain the tenderness of the shrimp.
Beat the egg
Crack all the eggs into a bowl. Then add salt, white pepper, sesame oil and a little water. Use chopsticks to beat until it reaches an even, smooth consistency.
🛎 Tip: The addition of water is very important as it gives you a better chance to achieve the desired texture of the cooked egg. Western-style scrambled egg which calls for milk or cream shares the same principle. Food scientist Harold McGee explains in his iconic book On Food and Cooking that added liquid “will dilute the egg proteins and produce a tenderer mass when the eggs are carefully cooked”.
Pan-fry the shrimp
Add cooking oil to a non-stick pan/wok over medium heat. Lay the marinated shrimp in a single layer to fry. Once the first side turns pink, flip over. Turn off the heat as soon as the second side becomes pink too. Transfer the shrimp into the egg mixture leaving the oil in the pan.
🛎 Tip: It’s important not to overcook the shrimp. Otherwise, it’ll become dry and chewy.
Cook the eggs
Pour everything into the pan/wok then turn on the heat again to the lowest setting. As soon as the bottom part starts to solidify, use a spatula to gently scrape and push the egg. This helps the liquid part to reach the hot pan. Keep doing so until most of the egg has turned into curd-like mass but still looks a little underdone (Please refer to the tutorial video).
🛎 Tip: In this step, low heat and continuous scraping are the key to success. As I mentioned earlier that adding water to the eggs helps to achieve a fluffy, tender texture. However, overheating “will cause some of the added liquid to separate. (Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking)”
Garnish and serve
Sprinkle chopped scallions and dish out immediately. By the time you bring the dish to the table and start eating, the underdone part of the eggs would have been cooked by the heat of the dish.
What to serve with
Traditionally, shrimp and egg stir-fry is served with plain rice, on its own or along with other savoury dishes. It also makes a great brunch item that goes over toast or between freshly steamed, halved buns (Mantou/馒头). Let me know if you have other creative ways to enjoy it!
Other quick & easy recipes
Who doesn’t like a tasty dish that requires minimum preparation? Here are a few more recipes in the “quick and easy” category:
- Tomato and Egg Stir-fry
- Steamed Chicken with Shiitake Mushroom
- Iceberg Lettuce with Oyster Sauce
- Enoki Mushroom with Garlic Sauce
- Hot and Sour Napa Cabbage
Shrimp and Egg Stir-Fry (滑蛋虾仁)
For the shrimp
- 140 g shrimp, peeled and deveined, about 5oz
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch, or tapioca starch/potato starch
For the eggs
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
You also need
- 1½ tablespoon neutral cooking oil
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- Mix shrimp with salt, white pepper and cornstarch until well combined.
- Crack eggs into a bowl. Add water, salt, white pepper and sesame oil. Beat until it reaches an even, smooth consistency.
- Heat oil in a non-stick pan/wok over medium heat. Fry shrimp on both sides in a single layer. As soon as it curls up and turns pink, turn off the heat. Transfer the shrimp into the egg mixture leaving the oil in the pan.
- Pour everything into the pan/wok. Turn on the heat again to the lowest setting.
- As soon as the bottom part starts to solidify, gently scrape and push the egg with a spatula to allow the liquid part to reach the hot pan. Keep doing so until most of the egg has turned into curd-like mass but still looks a little underdone.
- Sprinkle chopped scallions and immediately dish out to a serving plate or over rice.