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Longjing Xiaren (Green Tea Shrimp)

Longjing Xiaren (Green Tea Shrimp)
Laura McCandlish for NPR

Among Hangzhou's most famous dishes, only this one, delicately flavored with the region's vegetal Dragon Well tea, lends itself to the home kitchen. Unfortunately, you'll have to do without the sweet, small, live river shrimp they use there. I used wild North Carolina shrimp instead. Replacing the shrimp with chunks of boneless chicken thighs makes for a delicious variation. Dining at Hangzhou's landmark Hyatt Regency, we were told to dip these mild shrimp in a tangy brown vinegar.

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, divided

2 tablespoons egg white (from one large egg)

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (or substitute boneless chicken thighs)

2 heaping tablespoons Longjing tea* (or any other loose green tea)

1/2 cup hot water

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 tablespoon scallion, chopped (white part only)

Chopped scallions (green part) or chives for garnish

1/4 teaspoon salt

Sherry vinegar for dipping

*Available at Asian markets. Buy the cheap kind for cooking.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the rice wine and then stir in the egg white and mix until velvety. Marinate the shrimp (or chicken) in this mixture for at least 15 minutes.

Brew the green tea leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes. Strain and reserve both the liquid and the rehydrated leaves.

In a wok, heat a tablespoon of the oil. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until just pink but not done, about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp and set aside.

Heat second tablespoon of oil in wok. Add scallion (white parts) and saute about 30 seconds. Return to shrimp to pan, pour in strained green tea liquid and add salt.  Stir-fry on high until shrimp are cooked and liquid is reduced, about 3 minutes.

Plate and garnish with chopped green onions and reserved tea leaves. Serve with dipping bowls of sherry vinegar.

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