Bacon-Crowned Butterfly Shrimp: An Ageless Fusion

August 1, 2023

The butterfly shrimp, especially when encased in bacon, hails as a time-honored treasure from Chinese-American cuisine’s vibrant 60s era. While it may not mirror what you’d savor in conventional Chinese venues, its delightful allure remains undeniable.

Revisiting Times: Where Bacon Embraces Shrimp

This sumptuous creation involves tender shrimp draped in smoky bacon, dipped in whisked egg, pan-seared to perfection, and then elegantly perched on a flavorful foundation of onions with a hint of ketchup. Paired with fluffy steamed rice, this dish turns into a memorable culinary experience.

My initial encounter with this delicacy was watching my father expertly prepare it in a restaurant’s heart. The process of adeptly butterflying the shrimp, laying them on foil with a bacon overlay, and then storing them for gastronomic delights ahead taught me discipline, foresight, and a passion for food.

Though it remains uncertain whether a Chinese culinary artist pioneered this bacon-shrimp combo, its widespread fame in Chinese-American eateries is undeniable.

Perfecting Your Shrimp Butterflying Skills

Dive into the butterflying technique with confidence. After gaining insights from my father, I wish to share some pearls of wisdom:

  • Seek larger shrimp, preferably size 15 or even greater, but sizes 16/20 are both pocket-friendly and ubiquitous.
  • Ensure your shrimp boasts its shell but is head-free. An uninterrupted shrimp back is vital, so shun those pre-deveined. The tail end enhances the dish’s aesthetic appeal.
  • Pre-deveined tiger shrimps, a common supermarket find, can prove challenging here.
  • A razor-sharp chef or paring knife is your trusted ally.


  • 8 mammoth shrimps (shell intact, heads dispatched; roughly 9 ounces or 255g for size 15)
  • A smidge of salt, about 1/8 teaspoon
  • 3 bacon cuts (totaling approximately 70g)
  • Seasoning medley: 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a hint of Worcestershire sauce (your call), 2 teaspoons ketchup, 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper zest, and a dab of sesame oil (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 3 tablespoons versatile or canola oil (shared)
  • An egg, briskly stirred
  • A garlic nugget: 1 finely minced clove
  • Onion slices: 2 mid-sized yellow variants (around 350g when sliced)
  • An aroma kick: 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • Green garnish: 2 scallions, cut angularly into 1-inch lengths, with extras for final touch.


Crafting The Butterfly Shrimp

  1. Carefully peel the shrimps, preserving the tiny shell segment near the tail. Position the shrimp sideways, presenting its belly. With a firm grip on the shrimp, initiate a precise tail shell split using your knife’s tip.
  2. With gentle yet assured pressure, glide the knife through the shrimp, ensuring a uniform split till you just graze the external layer. Refrain from hasty incisions. For novices, a protective glove might be handy. Now, spread out the shrimp on your work surface. A mild press might be necessary to achieve the desired flatness, especially towards the tail.
  3. Proceed to extract the central vein running along the shrimp’s back. Peripheral veins might be lurking; if found, gently scrape them off. Voila! Your shrimp is now elegantly butterflied.

Assembling The Delicacy

  1. Rinse the shrimp under cool water, then pat dry. On returning them to your board, ensure they’re back-down. Season with a sprinkle of salt. Align bacon lengths to the shrimp size, pressing them gently on top.
  2. Blend the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, white pepper, and sesame oil in a bowl. Keep aside.
  3. Preheat your wok on a medium-high flame till it’s warm, but not smoking. Introduce 2 tablespoons of oil, ensuring a generous coat. Immerse the shrimp in the stirred egg, letting any surplus drip off, and arrange them in the wok, bacon facing downward. Speed is crucial here. Regulate heat to ensure both egg and bacon are impeccably cooked.
  4. Allow the bacon side to cook for 60-90 seconds until it assumes a golden hue. Delicately turn the shrimp, cooking for another 30-60 seconds, following the order you set them in. Transfer the shrimp to a serving dish.
  5. Reignite the wok on medium, introducing the remaining oil. Retain the wok’s flavors from the previous fry. Introduce minced garlic and onion slices, turning up the heat. After a quick 30-second stir-fry, pour in the Shaoxing wine. After another half minute, add the blended sauce, ensuring the onions are well-coated. Bring in the scallions.
  6. Stir-fry till the onions reach your desired texture. Some prefer a slight crunch, while others opt for a softer bite. Once done, plate the onions, with shrimp majestically seated atop. A sprinkle of scallions wraps up the dish!

Final Note: This fusion of smoky bacon and tender shrimp promises a symphony of flavors, resonating with both nostalgia and innovation. Enjoy this delightful melding of traditions, and let each bite teleport you to a culinary era that celebrates both heritage and imagination!

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