Stir-fried shrimp is done in the same manner as stir-fried fish and can be cooked with garlic chives. It can also be cooked with mustard greens picked during the winter if one cannot eat garlic chives.1 There is also a recipe where the body of the shrimp is pounded flat2 and stir-fried on its own that was quite novel and interesting.
Notes: 1 Chinese not eating garlic chives does so usually due to Chinese Buddhist dietary restrictions. 2 Chuibianqiwei (捶扁其尾) means “tail pounded flat”. But anatomically, it is not the tail of the shrimp that is the subject of flattening but the meaty abdomen instead. It’s unfortunate that across various cultures this part has also been named “the tail”, though understandably if one sees the cephalothorax with its head and guts as “the body”, the abdomen would logically be the tail.
PS: Real life has been crazy. Many apologies for the lack of recent posts!
Pan-fry whole shrimp with shells over high heat in wine until yellow then remove them from the pan.1 Next, braise them in light soy sauce and rice vinegar. When done, cover the shrimp with the bowl to cook with its residual heat. When ready to serve, place them in a dish. Their shells should be tender enough eat.2
Note: 1This is a a very different drunken shrimp compared to the modern version, which is basically shrimp marinated in wine. 2The shell has been made tender likely because the shrimp were braised in vinegar. While interesting, with all the braising, I wonder if the shrimp hasn’t also turned mushy and disgusting.
Pound the shrimp into a paste, form into balls and pan-fry. These are known as shrimp cakes.
A simple dish ingredient-wise, but complex in technique. Again much of the details crucial for this dish were not mentioned by Yuan Mei, most likely because he didn’t actually know them since he didn’t make the dish himself.
The shelled shrimp needs to be pounded well but not too finely. The paste must then be seasoned with salt and some starch, then the stirred until the salt has to tease out the albumin in the shrimp and the pounded mass really sticks together. Only then does one roll the paste into balls and fry them. For this dish I like to add chopped water-chestnut bits and green onions, seasoned additionally with white pepper and rice wine.
Shrimp ball are made in the same way as fish balls. They can be either braised in chicken broth or stir-fried dry. When pounding the shrimp to a paste, be sure to not pound it too fine otherwise its original flavours and textures would be lost. This is the same with fish balls.1 The shrimp can also be peeled in whole then mixed with laver, which is excellent.2
Notes 1 This is somewhat surprising since modern fishballs tends to be rather homogenous and fine in texture. 2 It’s not clear exactly how this is prepared. However, whole shrimp that has been semi-butterflied and fried until it just curls into a round form is also know as “shrimp balls” (蝦球), so it’s likely junh that. Mixing in chopped laver with shrimp prepared thus, either before or after frying, will undoubtedly result in excellent dishes.
During the summer, choose a white, clean, belt shad xiang1 and soak it in water for a day to remove its salty taste. Dry it under the sun and pan-fry with oil. When one side of the fish is golden brown, remove it from the pan. Place shrimp the side of the fish that that has not been fried, then put everything on a plate, add white sugar, and steam for a stick of incense’s duration in time until done. This dish is perfect for late summer.
Notes: 1 Xiang is basically a salted dried fish similar to Western salt cod except in this case, it is made from leyu (勒魚, sometimes written as 鰳 with the “fish” character as root) or Ilisha elongata. In English, this long-ish fish is commonly known as “slender shad”. In the Chinese text “daizi lexiang” (帶子勒鯗, literally: belt slender shad xiang) probably refers to a particularly slender, long, and belt-like specimen of slender shad made into salted fish.
2 Xiazi le qian xiang (蝦子勒簽鯗) sounds cryptically poetic, if we listen to the Mandarin phonetics of this creatively it could be interpreted as: “The blind happily holds the elephant”. Reminds me of that Indian blind people and elephant story.
“Take one jin of pork that is half lean and half fatty. Boil it in plain broth for ten to twenty guun then cut it into willow-leaf shaped pieces. Prepare two liang of small mussels, two liang of shrimp, one liang of shitake, two liang of jelly-fish, four pieces of walnuts with the bitter membrane removed, four liang of bamboo shoot slices, two liang of good dry-cured ham, and one liang of sesame oil. Braise the pork in autumn sauce and wine in a pot until half done. Combine the pork with all of the accompanying ingredients and continue braising until done. The jelly-fish should only be added at the very end.”
Look through a typical Chinese cookbook and one is bound find at least one recipe for a Babao dish. These “Eight Treasure” dishes range from savoury appetizers and main dishes to a slew of sweet desserts, but they are connected by the fact that they all contain eight different multicoloured, sometimes expensive, but always interesting-to-eat ingredients. In this recipe, the pork was considered a precious enough ingredient to be included as one of the treasures, but usually the base ingredient is not counted as one of the eight. For example, the famous Babao rice (八寶飯) is a sweet dish containing eight notable ingredients plus rice.
I also love how Yuan Mei decided to refer to the shrimp here as “Eagle’s talons“ (鷹爪). In all likelihood, this may just be an abbreviation for the “Eagle talon shrimp” (鷹爪蝦) Trachypenaeus curvirostris, but by omitting the “shrimp” part, he raises the status of the otherwise lowly crustacean to something more exotic, precious, and maybe more fitting to be one of the eight treasures. And a treasure they are. When fresh, these shrimp are so delicately crisp that biting into them you are almost shocked by the sensation. Needless to say, they would have worked wonders with other “crisp” textured ingredients such as bamboo shoots and jelly fish. While “eagle talons” could also arguably refer to chicken feet (known as “Phoenix talons”, 鳳爪), or even be read quite literally, the texture of bird talons whether they are from chickens or eagles would not have fit well in this dish. Besides, if you wanted to serve real eagle talons, you would serve them on their own, not mixed in and confused with a whole bunch of other stuff. When you’re trying be flamboyant and extravagant, it is probably good to be as direct as possible.
As for where the whole thing about “eight treasures” came from it, the most obvious answer would be the Buddhist eight treasures. However, I suspect that it goes back earlier than the introduction of the Buddhism to China from India. Fact is, Chinese culture from ancient to modern always had a tendency towards using numerological concepts in daily life, something which can be attributed directly to the Taoists. I will leave it to somebody to do the real research while I “armchair” it.
Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Furong Pork
Slice one jin of lean pork, dip each of the slices in light soy sauce, and let them dry in open air for two hours. Shell forty large shrimp and cut two liang of whole lard into small dice. Place one whole shrimp and a piece of lard on each slice of pork and pound the shrimp and lard flat onto the pork. Place the pork in boiling water to cook through. 
Heat half a jin of vegetable oil, place the pieces of pork onto a large skimming spoon, and ladle hot oil over them until done. Bring to boil half a wine-cup of autumn sauce, one cup of wine, and half a tea-cup of chicken broth, and pour on top of the pork. Finish by adding steamed rice noodles , green onion, and Szechuan pepper to the pork before serving.
: This is same “furong” as “fu-young” in egg fu young. In Chinese cuisine, the name of this complex-looking hibiscus flower is given to irregularly shaped foods or egg-based dishes. In Northern China, egg-based foods are almost almost always called “furong”-something.
: The steps here as described in this first part by Yuan Mei are pretty vague and incomplete, and required me to look up a few contemporary recipes to piece things together. Basically, it’s a translation with a few bits added here and there to make things make sense.
: Zhengfen (蒸粉) should be a type of steamed rice noodle, it seems rather strange to use it in a Chinese dish in such a manner that I’m wondering whether I got this wrong.