This recipe is originally from the Culinary Institute’s book, The Professional Chef©. I tried it and it is really good (with some improvements of mine and especially those of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt), and I edited it for Food Nirvana to include missing instructions to help less experienced cooks.
The best parts are that the batter tastes really good and the fried shrimp is not in any way oily or greasy. The batter seals instantly and keeps out the cooking oil. Beyond that, any leftovers can later be put into hot cooking oil to reheat them and they come out just fine, not oily.
This is basically a Chinese food recipe that calls for the use of a dipping sauce at serving time. I made a light tasting Chinese barbecue sauce and I plan to try other sauces for variations. My sauce recipe is provided following the shrimp recipe below.
The batter quantity produced from the recipe below is more than sufficient for three pounds of butterflied extra large or jumbo shrimp so you may want to halve the batter ingredients. Alternatively, you can batter dip some small pieces of fresh vegetables, like broccoli florets, and make a version of tempura with the extra batter.
I found the taste of the fried shrimp to be delightfully mild and thus perfect for use with a dipping sauce. If you want to eat the shrimp without using a dipping sauce you might try increasing the amounts of the seasonings in the batter.
Note: Having made the fried shrimp using this batter, I found the ratio of flour to beer produced a batter that was too thick. I thus cut the flour from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup. I also noted too much puffing of the batter so I cut the number of eggs from two to one. Overall this makes a thinner batter which I found to be superior. You should experiment with the beer/flour ratio to create a batter that pleases you.
2 lbs. of extra large or jumbo raw shrimp, shelled and butterflied
1 or 2 extra large eggs
8 to 10 oz. of very cold beer
2 oz. of ice cold vodka
1 cup of bread flour (I use all purpose flour and it works fine.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. (or more) of grated fresh ginger root (Or pre-minced ginger in a jar, available at Asian markets.)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of cornstarch in a wide bowl for dredging
2 quarts of soybean oil for frying
A frying or candy thermometer
Chill all of the measured batter ingredients and the batter bowl in the refrigerator prior to making the batter, except for the vodka, which can be put into the freezer.
Shell, wash and butterfly the shrimp, making sure to clean out any dark waste while butterflying. Note that butterflying is a process where you cut through the inside curve of the shrimp almost all the way through so that you can spread the still connected halves out flat into a symmetric approximate butterfly shape. Put the butterflied pieces on a plate that has a paper towel on it. The shrimp pieces should not be laying in water as they should be moist before dredging but not wet.
Prewarm your oven to 200º F. Put a china plate or wide shallow bowl/serving dish into the oven to later hold the fried shrimp and help keep them warm after they are served.
Put the soybean oil into a one to two gallon pot or a wok (I like the wok) and heat it to 360º F on medium heat while you are preparing the batter. If necessary you can adjust the heat to high to get to the right temperature when you are ready to start frying, but keep an eye on the temperature so that it does not exceed 360º F. Note that the oil can be reused multiple times, until it starts to darken, for fried seafood of various types. It should be poured into a separate sealable container through a sieve after it has cooled. Discard everything except the clear oil, and that includes the last part of the oil from the bottom of the pot that has accumulated various kinds of gunk in it from the frying process. Do not ever use oil that has been used previously to fry seafood for frying other types of food as there will be a seafood taste overtone to non-seafood items if you make that mistake.
Whisk the egg(s) well in the chilled two quart bowl. Add the beer and the vodka slowly while mixing gently. It will foam a lot.
Add all the dry ingredients except the cornstarch together and mix them with each other, if you haven't already done so, and then add that mixture to the egg and beer mixture gradually and mix gently. Adjust the consistency as required with beer if it is too thick or with flour if it is too thin. Do not mix longer than necessary. A few lumps in the batter won't hurt anything, while overmixing will ruin the batter due to gluten formation.
Moisture variations in different flours may create the need to adjust consistency. The batter should not be thick and it should not be runny. You will know you have the right consistency when a piece of dredged shrimp coated with the batter holds a coating thickness of about 1/16th of an inch or less. This is a matter of personal preference so you can vary the batter thickness to suit yourself ... in other words, experiment. But do so quickly as the longer the batter sits the more gluten that will form, and you don't want that.
Dredge each piece of shrimp in the bowl of cornstarch, shake off the excess, dip the shrimp into the batter, making sure to coat it completely. Extract the coated shrimp with tongs, let the excess batter drip off for a few seconds and then immerse the coated shrimp directly into the heated oil that is at a temperature of 360º F. In other words, you do each piece one at a time, adding each piece to the oil until you have about six pieces in the oil.
Fry each piece for three to four minutes or, if necessary, longer, turning each piece over a few times during frying, until any given piece is light to medium gold in color, then extract that piece with tongs and let any excess oil drain from it back into the wok, and place the piece of fried shrimp on a paper towel. Using a wok for frying is great as it reduces oil splatter and makes turning the pieces of shrimp easy.
Place each completed batch into a 200º F warming oven on a paper towel covered plate to maintain a desirable eating temperature while other batches are being fried. Be sure the oil temperature is monitored and the heat adjusted as necessary so that the oil is at 360º F when each batch is fried.
Serve the shrimp immediately with an appropriate sauce. They are delicious! My dipping sauce recipe follows.
Ray's Light Barbecue Dipping Sauce: (makes two cups)
1 1/2 cups of Duck Sauce (Buy it in quart jars in any Asian market or in your supermarket.)
1 tsp. of Soy Sauce
3 tbsp. of rice vinegar
1 tbsp. of honey
1/4 tsp. of grated fresh ginger root
2 tbsp. of dry sherry
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
Mix all the ingredients together well and serve the sauce in individual portions in shallow bowls.