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Fried Shrimp with Crispy Batter

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The trick to successful frying is to get the food as quickly as possible from the hot oil to the diner’s mouth. Fried food that sits on a plate, for even a minute, loses some of the bright flavor and excitement that makes frying worth the calories and the dangers of cooking with hot oil. Apart from immersing peeled shrimp directly in hot oil, the only available variations of fried shrimp come from using different batters. The simplest batter, a light mixture of flour and water with the consistency of heavy cream, works as well as any even though there are those who insist on including beer, eggs, or soda water. One trick that does work is to include yeast in a flour and water batter and then let the batter sit in a warm place for an hour or two. The yeast produces carbon dioxide that lightens the batter and gives it a pleasant fermented flavor. These shrimp are best served as an hors d’oeuvre.

36 shrimp

Cooking Methodfrying

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCocktail Party

Recipe Coursehors d'oeuvre

Equipmentdeep fryer

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturelight, savory

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups warm (not hot) water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast, dissolved for 10 minutes in warm water
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil
  • 36 large or extra large shrimp, peeled except for the tail and deveined (deveining optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Assorted mayonnaises and/or chutneys 

Instructions

  1. Whisk the water into the flour in a small mixing bowl. As soon as the batter is smooth—don’t worry about a few lumps—stop whisking so you don’t overwork the batter and make it tough. Stir in the yeast and its soaking liquid, cover the batter with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in volume (exact timing depends on the temperature of your kitchen).

  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot large enough so that the oil doesn’t come higher than halfway up the sides. If you have a frying thermometer, heat the oil to 370°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a dollop of batter into the oil. When the batter rises, surrounded with bubbles, within 5 seconds, the oil is ready. Start slowly—a couple of shrimp at a time—until you get a sense of how the oil is behaving. Ideally, the shrimp should take about 1 minute to brown—this ensures that they are cooked through (which they won’t be if the oil is too hot). If the oil isn’t hot enough, the batter will be soggy.

  3. Fry the shrimp, about 6 at a time, drain on paper towels, sprinkle liberally with salt, and serve immediately with the mayonnaises and/or chutneys, if desired.

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