This Cashew Shrimp Stir-fry is a Cantonese dish and an all-time favorite. Staying true to Cantonese cuisine, its flavor is mild and delicate––the shrimp are plump and crisp, and the cashews are crunchy and nutty.
With celery as the third “player,” the whole dish is refreshing and so well-balanced.
Secrets to Preparing Shrimp for Stir-fry
With this post, I also want to show everyone how to best prepare shrimp to ensure they’re perfectly cooked. It’s a method that was passed down by Bill’s mother after working many years at the restaurant she owned with Bill’s father.
As always, you want to start with high quality shrimp. I buy frozen shrimp, so I can have it on hand whenever I need it. Avoid shrimp that has been re-frozen––I have had way too many bad experiences with shrimp that has been de-frosted and then re-frozen by the supermarket, which results in a mushy texture. When it comes to seafood, a good deal is never good news: choose quality over price.
The secret is to “wash” the shrimp well in a process involving sugar and baking soda. First, you work the sugar and baking soda into the shrimp. I remember Bill’s mother would peel ten pounds of shrimp and go through this process at the restaurant.
The final step is to rinse the shrimp in a colander, with one hand constantly stirring the shrimp for a good 5 – 10 minutes. I can’t really explain the science behind it, but the outcome is shrimp that are plump, crisp and translucent.
Let’s get started with the recipe!
Cashew Shrimp Stir-fry: Recipe Instructions
First, prepare the shrimp for your Cashew Shrimp Stir-fry. Toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon sugar, baking soda, and 1/4 cup water, gently mixing everything together for a couple minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours and then rinse under cold running water for 5 minutes to wash away any sugar and baking soda.
Pat the shrimp dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Marinate the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of white pepper and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Now, since the dish comes together very quickly, and you want to avoid overcooking the shrimp, it’s time to blanch the celery and red bell pepper. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the celery and red bell pepper in.
After 30 seconds, drain the vegetables and shock them in ice water. Drain completely and set aside.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the minced ginger and chopped scallion and cook for 1 minute. Then turn up the heat to high and add the shrimp.
Once the shrimp have just begun to turn pink, add the blanched celery and red bell pepper, along with the last 1/4 teaspoon sugar, the oyster sauce, and the cashews. Mix everything well, and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Serve.
Note: It’s ideal to use roasted cashews for this recipe, but I only had raw cashews, so I just wok-roasted them for about 10 minutes. I’ve learned that cashews burn easily, so when roasting, start with a cold wok and medium low heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then the cashews. Toast the cashews for about 10 minutes, stirring often and taking care not to burn them. Then just spread them out and let cool until they’re ready to go into the dish.