Salt N’ Peppa Shrimps

I first moved to Vegas, by myself and stayed with my sister, while Ramon finished the school year and Willie was waiting for military retirement.  On one of his visits, I told him about the restaurant my sister bragged about.  The name was Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant.  A Chinese restaurant that served authentic Chinese foods.  It was Friday night and there were about 15 – 20 people waiting to be seated.  The Hostess went through the line and assigned numbers to the people waiting.  Then she came to us.  We were the last couple in line.

“Your name!?” The young Asian lady asked rudely.

We told her our name.

“It’s going to be 30 minutes!  We have no seats right now!  You can wait if you like.” She yelled.  Her tone was offensively condescending, eying us up and down.  Examining as if we were good enough to be granted a table.

I noticed that she was rude to the people ahead of us, mostly Asian.  But I also noticed that she was particularly more rude to us.

My husband got so pissed off.

“Let’s get outta here!  I don’t need this kind of treatment.  If I’m going to spend my hard earned money at this place… I would like to be treated like I’m a decent human being.  I would like to be treated with respect!”

“I don’t care if they serve the best food in the world.  I will never, ever go back there! They don’t get my business. I’ll take my money somewhere else.”

We walked out.  It was around 9:30 and didn’t know where to go.  I drove back and parked at a nearby high school.  My husband was still pissed about the incident that happened tonight.  We haven’t eaten.  We were both hungry.  And I know there wasn’t any food to eat at my sister’s house.  Besides, it was late to cook dinner.

“How about we just grab some Chinese Food at Boulder Station (Hotel & Casino)?”  I suggested to him.

“Frankly, I don’t want to go anywhere!  I had lost all my appetite!” He was still fuming about the incident

“But it’s already 9:30pm and we haven’t eaten!” I reminded him.

“All I want wanted to do was treat my wife to a nice dinner.  A good Chinese food.  How hard is that?  Instead, I got treated like shit by a racist Chinese woman!”

“Fine.  Let’s get some food at Boulder Station.”  He reluctantly agreed.

And so we went.

We ordered our food and sat at a small, dimly lit table.  This was a last minute decision.  And a bad one at that.  The food was not good.  In fact, was one of the worst Chinese food we’ve eaten.

No luck.  Our night was supposed to be enjoyable.  Instead, we had nothing but bad luck.  Bad service.  Bad food.  Bad night!

I felt responsible.  It was my idea to go to Sam Woo.  I felt guilty and ashamed.  I felt awful.  And I was beginning to get pissed off too.


Several months later, I convinced my husband that we ought to try Sam Woo again.  I suggested that maybe we should go there in the afternoon when it might not be as crowded.  I told him that my sister and her boyfriend took me there one night and the food was indeed real good.  And the service wasn’t that bad.  Maybe they just had a bad Hostess that night.

“Fine.  This is their last chance to redeem themselves.  I’m only going because you’re bugging the shit outta me.  Their food better be damn good!”

So we did.  This time the Hostess wasn’t rude like last time.  She wasn’t overly nice either.  And that was OK.  I wasn’t expecting a royalty treatment.  And we got seated right away.

We ordered several shrimp dishes:  shrimp with lobster sauce, beef in black beans sauce, salt and pepper shrimp, fried rice and iced tea.  All these dishes were good.  The sauces were perfectly spiced and seasoned.

But the “salt and pepper shrimp” was the dish that intrigued him.  He particularly liked the sauteed peppers which appeared to be Serrano peppers and green onions that was served with the shrimp.

So instead of us going back to Sam Woo, I decided to recreate the “salt and pepper shrimp” dish that my husband liked.   And this is what he has to say…

“Mmmm.  You cook this shrimp better than Sam Woo!  And better than any other place I’ve been to…  At least I don’t have to put up with bad service. ”

The key to cooking the shrimps is the oil temperature.  The oil must be around 350°F when you start frying the shrimp.  No higher.  Or the shrimps will burn.

To be sure I attach or place a thermometer in the frying pan.

You could also just use your judgment.  Gauge it.  The oil must be hot but not smoking.

If the shrimps are fried correctly, they should be crunchy.  And you should be able to eat everything.  I mean everything, including the shells which is fiber.  If the eyes and heads of the shrimp bother you, you can take them off after frying and just serve the body with the tails on.

For Westerners, this dish may seemed bizarre and weird.  One might wonder how could you possibly fry and eat shrimps with the shells on?  Most Filipinos don’t know this either.  I remember when I bought a big bag of whole shrimps at the Filipino Food Store here in town.

The owner ask: “What are you going to do with all that shrimp?  How are you going to cook them…?”

“Oh.  Simple.  I am going to lightly dredge them in seasoned flour and fry them whole.  With heads and tails on, unpeeled.”

“Really?  Aren’t those shells going to be tough?”

“Nope.  Not at all.  When the shrimps are perfectly fried.  Heads, shells and tails become crunchy.  And they taste great!”  I assured him.

“Hmmm.  I didn’t know that.  I’ve have never tried eating shrimps that way.  I just learn something new! Thanks!”

You do have to choose shrimps with soft shells.  And most farmed shrimps’ shells are thinner and softer compared to the ones harvested from the Gulf of Texas.

With this dish every part is eaten.  The head, the shell and tails.  When fried perfectly.  All parts become crunchy, and therefore, edible.  My favorite part is the tail much more than the head.  The same part that my son leaves on his plate.  He doesn’t like the heads and the tails.  He is a typical American kid. 🙂

When I was little, I remember my grandparents cooking a pot full of small shrimps.  All body parts intact.  The shrimps were about the size of my pinky and was perfectly cooked in a large deep pot with only a little bit of water and a good amount of sea salt.  They were salty.  But very good.  Because they were freshly caught from the sea.

Whole shrimp, shell on with heads and tails are hard to come by.  Our local grocery stores rarely carries them.  So I have been buying the “easy peel” ones that’s already been deveined.  Their headless.  But works just fine.

As for Sam Woo.  The food was great.  But the service is left to be desired.  Most days the wait is too long and the Hostess need an attitude adjustment.  She seems rude to all the customers, which are mostly Asian.  But I guess a lot of Asian, especially Chinese people, didn’t mind the rudeness and bad treatment.  Because this restaurant is never empty.  In fact, the line is always over flowing at the door.

However, for Americans, this leaves a “bad taste” in their mouths.  My husband feels exactly this way.  He doesn’t think it’s right for any restaurant to treat it’s good paying customers badly.  No matter how great their food.

So… to avoid all these hassles.  I’m better off cooking these shrimps at home…

Washed and drained.  Easy Peel Shrimps.  Seasoned with coarse sea salt or kosher salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

All purpose flour plus kosher salt and plenty of  ground black pepper.

Mixed them up real good.

dredge 8 – 10 or more shrimps at a time, depending on how large your frying pan…

Be sure to coat the shrimps nicely with the seasoned flour.

Place the dredged shrimps in a plate or over waxed paper and allow the shrimp to rest for about five minutes.  This resting period will allow the seasoned flour to stick on the shells.

Heat a large skillet or frying pan and add 1 cup or more oil.  The shrimps must be submerge in hot oil.

Fry shrimps until crispy on one side.  About 3 minutes on each side.  As you can see, I should have heated more oil to have the shrimps more submerged.

Flip the shrimps to the other side.

Fry them until crispy like these…

Remove the shrimps from the pan…

Drain them over paper towels…

They are now ready to serve.  You can serve them with rice and Sweet Chili Sauce as dipping sauce.

This is the best Sweet  Chili Sauce we’ve tried… available in Asian market and most supermarkets…

Or… If you are like my husband.  The Sauteed Jalapenos is a good accompaniment…

About 15 jalapenos and 1 bunch of green onions.  Chopped.  Here I didn’t have enough jalapenos so I threw in a handful of red peppers.  Which of course make the sauce more spicy.

Saute them in the pan with 2 tablespoons for the same oil used for frying the shrimps.  Add added the salt and black pepper.

Saute them  until they nice and tender…

Ready to serve! You need plenty of rice on the side…

Salt & Pepper Shrimp with Sauteed Jalapeno Peppers

2 pounds whole large shrimps (shell on with heads and tails if available)

2 tsps. kosher salt or 1 TBSP. coarse sea salt

1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne (optional)


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper


2 cups canola oil for frying

Cut the antenae off the shrimps.  Wash and drain shrimp in a colander.  Place in a large bowl.

Season Shrimps with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  Let it set four about 10 minutes.

In a large ziploc bag, combine flour, salt and black pepper.

Heat a large frying pan and add the oil.  Heat oil to 350°F.  Oil must be at least an inch deep.  Shrimps must be fully submerge.

Place 8 – 10 shrimps in the flour and shake the ziploc bag to coat the shrimps.  Shake off excess flour from the shrimp and fry them in the hot oil.

Fry Shrimp for 3 minutes on each side.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

Repeat procedures with the remaining shrimp.

Serve with rice and your choice of sauces below:

Sauteed Jalapeno Peppers

15 medium size jalapeno peppers

1 bunch green onions – chopped

1 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

2 TBSPs. of oil used to fry the shrimps

Wash the jalapenos and pat dry with kitchen towel.  Cut the stems off slice them in halves.  Chop thinly and set aside.

Wash the green onions.  Cut the roots and discard.  Remove yellowed or wilted pieces.  Cut the welted top.  Chop green onions.

Using the same frying pan, pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil.  Saute Jalapenos and green onions for a few minutes, until Jalapenos slightly soft.  Add salt and black pepper.  Stir again for a few minutes.

Transfer the sauteed jalapenos to a small bowl.  Serve on the side.

Or you can serve the shrimps with bottled Sweet Chili Sauce.  This sauce is perfectly fine.  It’s mild and sweet which offsets the saltiness of the shrimp.

Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:

#1 – The secret is really using a whole shrimp.  Shells on with heads and tails.  Find them as fresh as you can find.  Use only shrimps with white soft shells.  Brown shrimps tend to have tougher shells.

#2 – Frying time.  The shells must almost look wrinkly.  Try eating one shrimp out of the first batch to be sure.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Tess Harris

2 thoughts on “Salt N’ Peppa Shrimps

  1. Sorry to hear you & Willie had a bad experience your first time at Sam Woo’s, but glad you gave them another chance. As for me, I’m like Ramon. I don’t eat the heads and tails. In fact, I dislike that thin shell on my shrimp. Gets stuck in my teeth, and something I don’t desire to swallow. You sometimes see this type of shrimp at salad bars. Guess you could say, I prefer just plain old shrimp cocktail ~ the ones all cleaned up and ready to pop in your mouth to enjoy! Your recipe is something that I might try out at a Chinese restaurant, but not attempt at home. The finish product does look very appetizing 🙂

    • Thanks Tess!

      I don’t blame you.

      Eating whole fried shrimps with heads and tails is something to get used to for most Western palate, and that is for those who are a bit adventurous… 🙂

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