This steamed garlic butterfly shrimp/prawns dish (蒜蓉粉丝蒸虾） is a surefire crowd pleaser. I use it as a centerpiece in my dinners when I serve it. I usually make it during holidays or when we have guests coming over. It looks super fancy so your guests will certainly be impressed. But it is actually quite easy to make. Cleaning and butterflying the shrimp might be the most difficult part and takes the most time. But once you get the hang of it, you can do it pretty quickly.
For Asians, many of us like to eat shrimp with the head attached. To some people, including my husband, the head is actually the best part because it has unique flavors. It contains the shrimp’s digestive organ, hepatopancreas, which turns red when cooked. It tastes like crab’s tomalley, but juicier and sweeter. However, if you can’t stomach it, you can still enjoy this dish. Just don’t remove the head part. It serves its functional purpose by holding down the body of butterflied shrimp so the flesh stays flat on the plate.
The garlic sauce is super aromatic and adds much flavors and umami to the shrimp. The original recipe calls for Chinese vermicelli which is usually made of mung bean starch and is quite soft and breaks easily after cooking. I prefer the Korean vermicelli made from sweet potato starch due to its hardiness and chewy texture. The vermicelli absorbs the sauce and shrimp flavor extremely well. Hence, you are not wasting any part of the dish. This dish pairs really well with rice.
I adapted it from another one of my favorite Chinese bloggers 圆猪猪的小厨房
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serving: 4-5 people family style
- 8 – 10 head-on large shrimp or prawns 1
- 3 ounces Korean vermicelli/sweet potato noodles 2
- 10 gloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or ¼ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil and additional 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions (green parts only)
- Gather all the ingredients. Immerse the Korean vermicelli/sweet potato noodles in hot water to soften them up for 20 minutes while you prepare for the rest of the dish.
- Clean up the shrimp. Wash the shrimp gently and pat them dry with kitchen paper towel. Use kitchen scissors to remove the shrimp’s antenna and legs. Then cut the rostrum (the pointed sharp part on shrimp’s head). Insert a toothpick into the cut where the rostrum used to sit and take out a small black chip (the black chip is shrimp’s stomach and it is connected to the vein all the way through the back). Be careful not to disturb the hepatopancreas, which is the orange/tan color inside the head. Insert the same toothpick into the gap between 2nd and 3rd tail section from the end to remove the shrimp’s vein. 3
- Butterfly the shrimp. Use kitchen scissors to cut open the back shell of the shrimp. Then carefully run a chef’s knife through the back to deepen the cut. Gently open the shrimp and use the back of a chef’s knife or cleaver to lightly tap the flesh so it stays flat. (If you did not de-vein in step 2, you can do it here after cutting the back open. The vein is located either on the left or right side of the flesh where the incision is made).
- Smash the garlic gloves with a cleaver to quickly remove the skins. Using two hands, gently rock the chef’s knife back and forth across the pile of garlic to mince it.
- Prepare the sauce by adding the 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt), ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder (optional), and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil just starts to get hot, add the minced garlic. Stir and toss frequently to prevent garlic from sticking. After about 1 minute when garlic becomes golden and fragrant, add the sauce and let it boil before turning off the heat.
- Lay the softened Korean vermicelli in a circle on a plate. Then lay the butterflied shell-on shrimp one by one like flower petals with tails in the center and head towards outside.
- Carefully add the sauce along with cooked garlic on top of each butterflied shrimp and vermicelli.
- Boil some water in a steamer or a large wok with steamer rack. When the water boils, transfer the plated shrimp on top of the steamer rack. Cover the lid and steam for 4 minutes over medium-high heat.
- When the time is up, turn off the heat immediately. Carefully take the plate out and add the chopped green onions onto the shrimp. Heat the additional tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, pour it over the green onions.
- When picking shrimp or prawns, go for the fresh, cleaner ones. When shrimp are not fresh, they give out a fishy smell. I got the extra colossal ones (U-10) which is about 1 pound for 10 shrimp from my local Asian supermarket.
- You can get the Korean vermicelli, called Dangmyeon from most Asian super markets, such as H-Mart.
- For this dish, you don’t need to de-shell the shrimp. But I do like to clean the head by removing the stomach part (the little black chip) inside the head. If you don’t plan to eat the head, you don’t need to remove the stomach inside the head. I would still recommend de-veining the shrimp using a toothpick.