This is a famous northern Chinese dish from Tsinan, in Shandong province. The fried croutons should be added just before serving; you don't want them to soak up much of the sauce.
You'll need a thermometer to measure the temperature of the frying oil.
Make Ahead: The shrimp need to marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.
- For the shrimp and marinade
- 1 pound raw medium-size shrimp
- 1 large egg white
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- For assembly
- 3 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
- 1/2 medium cucumber
- 1 1/2 cups peanut or corn oil
- For the sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 1/2 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
For the shrimp and marinade: Rinse the shrimp and remove their shells. Slit the back of each shrimp lengthwise and remove the black vein. Cut the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to a medium glass bowl. Add the egg white, cornstarch and salt; use your hands to mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
Cut the bread into 3/8-inch cubes to yield about 1 1/2 cups.
Halve the cucumber lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Cut the (unpeeled) flesh into 3/8-inch dice to yield about 3/4 cup.
For the sauce: Combine the cornstarch, salt, sugar, pepper, sherry and broth in a measuring cup and stir to dissolve the cornstarch. Have the sauce at hand near the stove.
Place a few layers of paper towels on a plate near the stove.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat to 350 degrees; add the croutons and fry until golden brown. Use a Chinese skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer the croutons to the paper towels to drain.
Place a metal colander or strainer over a large saucepan near the stove. Reduce the temperature of the oil in the wok to 280 degrees, add the shrimp and stir quickly until the shrimp have separated into individual pieces and have changed color. Immediately pour the shrimp and oil into the strainer. As soon as the oil drains into the saucepan below, transfer the shrimp to a dish.
Heat the wok over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add 2 tablespoons of the drained oil from the saucepan and then the cucumber; stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir the sauce well to re-combine and slowly pour it into the wok, stirring until it becomes a clear glaze. Add the shrimp, stir to mix with the sauce and cook just to heat through. Add the croutons and stir once. Serve immediately.
Adapted from "Florence Lin's Regional Chinese Cookbook,"by Florence Lin (Hawthorn, 1975).
Tested by Toni Sandys.
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