Sakura ebi are tiny pink shrimp. They are delicious fresh but, usually, only high-end Japanese restaurants serve them this way as it takes a lot of time and effort to peel them. They are, however, readily available in their dried form, produced in Japan and Taiwan. For these dishes, you’ll need dried sakura ebi, which are sold in packs at Japanese shops such as City’super, Apita or Fresh Mart in Sogo. Don’t substitute Chinese dried shrimp, which are thicker, harder and chewier.
Sakura ebi aglio e olio pasta
This is a Japanese-Italian dish that combines sakura ebi (and a few other Asian ingredients) with aglio e olio – the classic Italian garlic-and-oil pairing that’s cooked with chilli flakes and served with pasta and grated cheese. I’ve omitted the cheese and substituted dried shrimp roe, which is another umami-rich ingredient.
This makes a lot of sakura ebi aglio e olio; store the leftovers in the fridge. If you’re not serving it with pasta, it makes a delicious condiment, and can be served with steamed rice or as a filling for steamed Chinese bread.
250ml olive oil
50 grams thinly sliced garlic, or more to taste
100 grams dried sakura ebi
2 tsp dried shrimp roe
2-3 tsp Italian chilli flakes, or more to taste
60 grams spring onions
Fine sea salt
200 grams fine pasta (such as angel hair or capellini)
1 small pack tobiko (flying fish roe)
Shiso sprouts, to garnish
Pour the oil into a wok or skillet then add the garlic. Place the pan over a medium flame and heat until the oil sizzles, then turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is pale golden. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the oil. Turn the heat to medium and add the sakura ebi, shrimp roe and chilli flakes. Stir almost constantly until the sakura ebi darken slightly. Taste the mixture and add salt, if needed. Cut the spring onions into 5mm pieces and stir them into the pan. Cook until the oil stops sizzling, then turn off the flame. Put the cooked garlic back into the pan and mix with the other ingredients. The olive oil should liberally coat the ingredients; if it seems dry, stir in more oil.
Boil a pot of salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Ladle off 100ml of the pasta water. Drain the pasta in a colander then put it back into the pot used to boil it. Add a generous amount of the sakura ebi aglio e olio and mix it with the pasta, drizzling in a little pasta water if it seems dry. Divide the pasta between four plates and top each portion with more of the sakura ebi aglio e olio and some of the tobiko. Garnish with shiso sprouts and serve. Mix well before eating.
Sakura ebi fried rice
The rice for this dish can be long-grain or short-grain.
500 grams cooked rice, chilled
About 30 grams lard or rendered goose fat (or use 30ml cooking oil)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ small onion, chopped
50 grams dried sakura ebi
2 large eggs
2 spring onions, minced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dampen your hands with water, then press the chilled rice between your palms, to break up any lumps. Heat the lard (or other fat) in a wok set over a high flame and add the garlic and onion. Stir-fry until fragrant then add the sakura ebi. Cook, stirring often, until the sakura ebi darkens slightly, then add the rice and a sprinkling of salt. Stir-fry over a high flame until the rice is hot, adding more fat to the wok if the ingredients stick.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Push the rice and other ingredients to the sides of the wok to create a well. Pour the eggs into the well and stir them with the tip of a spatula until they start to set. Stir the eggs into the other ingredients, then taste the rice for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed. Mix in the spring onion, then divide between bowls and serve immediately.
Photography: Jonathan Wong
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee
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