In my parents’ Chinese restaurant, Shrimp and Broccoli was one of the most often-ordered dishes. With the combination of healthy broccoli and luxurious shrimp, it’s not surprising!
The original Shrimp and Broccoli is made with a white sauce with garlic, but the vast majority of people modified the order: “make it with brown sauce!”
After making it a few times this past week, I can see why. Nobody can resist that richly-flavored dark brown sauce over their steamy white rice.
How Do You Prepare Shrimp and Broccoli?
A good Shrimp and Broccoli stir-fry is much easier than you think!
- Peel, clean and butterfly the shrimp (or better yet, use pre-cleaned shrimp).
- Cut and wash your broccoli (or again, use pre-cut and pre-washed broccoli).
- Mix your sauce.
- Blanch shrimp and broccoli.
- Everything’s ready for the wok, and in less than 10 minutes, you have a hot and delicious dish that’s just as good—but probably better—than any you’ll get at your local Chinese takeout!
To make it really simple, we’ve outlined some key tips and steps for cooking this dish below.
How Do You Prepare Shrimp for Stir-fry?
First, use frozen shrimp. I think these are best, as they’re flash frozen soon after they’re caught. Nothing’s worse than shrimp that has been thawed and sitting on ice for days or refrozen and thawed multiple times!
You can buy shrimp with the shells on, pre-cleaned, shelled, and/or deveined. I tend to buy shrimp with the shells-on and heads removed. My logic is that the less processing the shrimp underwent before freezing, the better!
Once you remove the shell and tail—taking care with the tail so you don’t lose the tail meat—remove the vein and sand track, as you butterfly the shrimp.
If you’ve purchased pre-shelled, deveined, and butterflied shrimp, you should cut the backs slightly deeper so the shrimp open up to have a nice shape after they’re cooked and can better hold onto the sauce!
While this is a standard method that can apply to most stir-fries, there are exceptions, such as Cantonese Salt and Pepper Shrimp or Shanghai Stir Fried Shrimp, which require special preparation.
How do you marinate and velvet shrimp for stir fry?
As for marinating, good quality fresh shrimp don’t really need much beyond a good rinsing and a thin coating of cornstarch. The light coating provides a velvety texture and, in my opinion, you want to preserve the clean flavor of the shrimp.
Restaurants sometimes soak shrimp in a little bit of sugar and baking soda for a couple hours and give them a good long rinse with cold water.
Baking soda gives the shrimp a crisper texture, and also rinses away any shrimpy taste that can happen if the shrimp aren’t of the highest quality. As with fish, shrimp should not smell fishy. The process used by some restaurants “revitalizes” the shrimp, shall we say. For more detailed information in these techniques, see our article on How to Prepare Shrimp for Chinese cooking.
The Importance of Blanching Shrimp Before Stir-frying
So why do you blanch shrimp—and for that matter, the broccoli as well—before stir frying? There are several reasons for this, some of which may seem counterintuitive, but you’ve just got to trust us on this one.
- Blanching broccoli and shrimp ensures they are cooked more evenly
- It makes the final sauce cleaner and more attractive
- The flavors of the sauce and ingredients are more distinct in the final dish
You’re ready to make an excellent Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry now, so start up your rice cooker and man your wok!
Shrimp & Broccoli Recipe Instructions
First, prepare the shrimp and broccoli.
Next, in a medium pot, set 4 cups of water to a boil. While that’s happening, mix the chicken stock, sugar, soy sauces, oyster sauce, sesame oil and white pepper and set aside.
Blanch the broccoli for 30 seconds. Remove and drain.
Let the water return to a boil, and blanch the shrimp for 15 seconds. Remove and drain. The shrimp will be about 60-70% cooked.
Heat the wok over high heat. Pour 2 tablespoons of canola oil around the perimeter of the wok, stir in the garlic, and add the Shaoxing wine.
Next, add the chicken stock mixture. Bring the sauce up to a boil, and add the shrimp and broccoli back to the wok.
Once everything comes to a boil, drizzle in the cornstarch slurry (1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoon water) until the sauce thickens and starts to cling to the shrimp and broccoli.
There should not be any standing sauce, although you can adjust this depending on your personal preference.
Serve with steamed white rice!