The Key Step To Making Chinese Restaurant-Quality Shrimp

If you love Chinese food and you love shrimp, you more than likely have chowed down on dishes such as shrimp egg foo young, pineapple shrimp fried rice, or pork and shrimp shumai just to name a few. Seafood has been a huge part of the traditional Chinese diet, at least since the seventh century, according to Harvest of the Sea. Shrimp makes up around one-fourth of the seafood that gets eaten in the U.S., and it's still a popular protein in many of the cuisine's staple dishes.

Even if you've made and enjoyed Chinese shrimp dishes at home, you may have noticed that the shrimp you find in restaurant dishes seem plumper, glossier, and all-around tastier than what you turn out in your home kitchen. As it turns out, Chinese restaurants often follow a two-step formula to produce such delightfully plump and delicious shrimp — and luckily, you can easily follow the same formula at home.

Brining, then velveting, is the key to shrimp success

In 1986, a New York Times article instructed readers on how to produce restaurant-quality stir-fried shrimp by brining it. This process helps remove the unpleasant film that coats shrimp, making them taste fresher and cleaner. Serious Eats takes this one step further, and suggests adding 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 pound of shrimp to the brine. They note that the added alkalinity helps avoid rubberiness and keeps the shrimp succulent when cooking.

After a quick brine, the New York Times recommends another step used in Chinese dishes, a technique known as velveting. This consists of marinating the shrimp in a mixture of cornstarch and beaten egg white. The process helps insulate the proteins when cooking, leaving them tender and silky.

After a 15-minute soak in the velveting mix, the shrimp should be partially cooked in peanut oil. After a few seconds, when the shrimp have turned opaque, they should be drained on paper towels, then worked back into the dish later on. So when you're making a Chinese shrimp dish at home, set aside some time to brine and then velvet this delicious seafood.