A reader who requested the recipe for a sweet and pungent shrimp from the Panda Inn in Pasadena won the everlasting thanks of our tasting panel. Because it''s as impossible to eat just one of these as it is to eat a single kernel of popcorn, the recipe is often called Chinese popcorn.
Peel and devein the shrimp. Slice in halves lengthwise. Rinse well and pat dry. Add the egg white to the shrimp and mix well. Mix 1-1/2tablespoons cornstarch with salt and add to shrimp. Stir to coat well. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons oil and mix well again. Place the shrimp in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.Remove the shrimp and dust with remaining cornstarch. Shrimp should be dry to the touch. Heat the remaining oil in a large wok to 350 to 375 degrees.
Fry the shrimp 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until crisp, being careful to separate them with a long- handled wooden spoon or chopsticks to prevent sticking. It may be necessary to fry the shrimp in several batches. When done, remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and drain well. Combine the shrimp and the sweet and pungent sauce and toss quickly to coat. Immediately turn out onto a platter and sprinkle with finely chopped green onions.
SWEET AND PUNGENT SAUCE: Combine the sugar, catsup, vinegar, and salt, and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok. Add the garlic, ginger, green onion, red pepper, and zests of lemon and orange; cook 30 seconds. Stir in the sugar-catsup mixture. Immediately add the sherry mixture and cook until slightly thickened.