Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spicy Shrimp, Sweet Potato & Bok Choy Stir-Fry in Sour-Sweet Sauce

I call the sauce in this dish a "sour and sweet sauce" to differentiate it from what most people here in the US consider to be Chinese "sweet and sour sauce." While the latter is Americanized, extremely sweet and often made with ketchup and/or corn syrup, my sauce is closer to a traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce: Brown in color and with a definite tang that keeps the sweetness in check but without puckering your mouth. If you really do want a sweeter sauce, you can add more brown sugar to it.

You can make my Sour & Sweet Sauce for use on all sorts of stir-fry dishes, including those featuring beef, pork, chicken or tofu. Likewise, you can select your own combination of vegetables--I used what I had on hand, namely bok choy, a garnet sweet potato, mini peppers (you can spice this up by adding or substituting one or more hot chilies) and onion. Serve as you would any stir-fry dish, i.e., over rice, with Asian noodles, or "as is."

Since stir-frying takes very little time and requires frequent stirring, it makes sense to prep all the ingredients before you start cooking. You can also cook the sauce right before frying the shrimp and vegetables--simply cook until dark brown and thickened, then cover and remove from heat. For best results, make sure your oil is hot enough and start with the slowest-cooking ingredients, and cook each until just tender (cooking times will vary). If your wok or pan isn't large enough, or if you're concerned about some ingredients ending up overcooked or too soft, simply remove each from wok or pan when cooked to desired tenderness and hold in a large bowl until all ingredients are cooked, then add all back to the wok or pan with the the cooked sauce and stir until heated through.

2 to 3 Tbs stir-fry oil or peanut oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 Tbs minced ginger
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1-2 whole dried Asian chilies
1 large (approx. 12oz) onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (approx. 8oz), cut in half lengthwise and into 1/4" thick half-moons
4 to 6 mini sweet peppers OR 1 large bell pepper (any color), cut into 1/4" wide rings or strips
1 bunch baby bok choy (approx. 8oz), bottom trimmed and leaves cut in half lengthwise
8 oz. raw peeled & deveined shrimp (weight *after* peeling)

Sour-Sweet Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce (reduced sodium is fine) or tamari sauce
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch

To make the sauce, place all ingredients EXCEPT cornstarch in a small bowl or lidded jar, then whisk or shake vigorously until sugar is dissolved.  Add cornstarch and whisk or shake vigorously until completely incorporated and there are no lumps. Pour into a small saucepan, bring to a low boil while stirring frequently, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce turns a dark, glossy brown and has thickened to the consistence of sweet & sour sauce. Cover and remove from heat, setting aside until ready to add to the stir-fry.

Thai Garlic-Chili Pepper Sauce
To make the stir-fry, heat oil to medium-high in wok or large, deep frying pan, add garlic, ginger & crushed red pepper or Asian chilies, and stir-fry until fragrant (1 to 2 minutes).  Add onion and stir-fry until starting to soften (approx. 3 minutes). Add sweet potato slices and stir-fry until just beginning to soften (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Add sweet peppers and stir-fry until just softened (approx. 2 to 3 minutes).  Add baby bok choy and stir-fry until leaves turn bright-green and are just barely wilted (about 1 to 2 minutes). Add shrimp and stir-fry until cooked through and no longer pink. When all ingredients are cooked to desired doneness, pour in the cooked sauce, stir and heat through.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're looking for an Asian hot sauce to spice this up even more, try A Taste of Thai Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce.

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