Szechuan Shrimp

February 13, 2023

Eating Szechuan Shrimp at a Chinese restaurant is a cuisine staple. Tender baby shrimp are topped with a spicy and tangy Szechuan (more accurately spelled “Sichuan”) sauce that packs a lot of flavors.


To reminisce, Szechuan Shrimp used to be a staple at Chinese restaurants. Only the American takeout staple of Shrimp with Lobster Sauce was more popular.

When Szechuan cuisine became popular, the menu at many Chinese restaurants shifted from its former, Cantonese-heavy focus.

When the word “Sichuan” was used to describe a particular Chinese American dish rather than a style of cooking from China, the spelling “Szechuan” was more common.

Dishes from the spicy and flavorful Sichuan province of China, such as Mapo Tofu, Twice-cooked Pork, and Sichuan Boiled Beef, have recently become extremely popular at Chinese dining establishments (Shui Zhu Niu).

However, Szechuan Shrimp is still doing well because it is delicious even though its origins are dubious.

Spicy shallot, pepper sauce, water chestnuts, and shrimp for a delightfully crunchy dish. It’s a clever combination that sets this dish apart.


It’s okay to omit the water chestnuts if you don’t like the crunchy texture. Rather than plain dried chili flakes, I gave this recipe a little kick by subbing in some douban la jiang (chili bean sauce).

Hot chili oil from Kaitlin is a great substitute for chili bean sauce if you can’t find any.

In terms of swaps, the red bell peppers give the dish a sweet flavor. Use red chili peppers like Holland, Anaheim, or even Thai chilis if you have a high tolerance for heat.

Serve these Szechuan shrimp over some fragrant jasmine rice and savor the flavor!


  • 1 lb. of shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
  • 1 tsp. of vegetable oil (plus 2 tablespoons, divided)
  • ½ tsp. of cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. of ginger (minced)
  • 2 tsp. of doubanjiang (chili bean sauce)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • ¼ cup of shallots or red onion (minced)
  • 1 tbsp. of ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. of hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp. of Shaoxing wine
  • ¼ cup of water chestnuts (chopped, optional)
  • 1 medium carrot (very finely chopped)
  • ½ red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 cup of chicken stock (120 ml)
  • 1 tsp. of rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • ¼ tsp. of sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. of fresh ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp. of cornstarch (add 2 tablespoons of water)
  • 1 scallion (chopped)


  1. To coat the shrimp evenly, combine 1 teaspoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch in a bowl. Putting aside.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and heat the final 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in your wok. Stir in the ginger, and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Toss in the douban jiang or hot chili oil (with chili flakes), garlic, and shallots, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes.
  3. Then, turn the heat up to medium and mix the ketchup and hoisin sauce. For a deeper color and more robust flavor, stir-fry the ketchup and hoisin sauce for 1–2 minutes. Lower the temperature if the sauce appears to be burning.
  4. Finally, stir in the Shaoxing wine, water chestnuts (if using), and red bell pepper. Cook in a wok for an additional 2 minutes. When the mixture boils, add the chicken stock and immediately turn the heat down to a simmer.
  5. After 3 minutes of simmering, stir in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and white pepper. After 3 minutes, give the heat a boost and add the shrimp, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the sauce has thickened, add the cornstarch slurry and return the shrimp and sauce to a simmer. The shrimp should now be opaque and fully cooked. Combining the scallions is a nice touch.
  7. Toss with steamed rice, and enjoy!
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