This recipe tasted fine (albeit nothing like P.F. Changs), but the directions are horribly confusing. First of all, there's a whole section of ingredients called "shrimp marinade" that aren't even discussed in the directions. Second of all, it says "chili paste" in multiple places in the ingredients, and it's confusing as to where to actually add it. Third of all, steps 7-11 brought me to tears of frustration. "Finish with sesame oil"? What does that mean? Do you mix it in? Put it on top? Serve it on the side? How much sesame oil? Finally, the name "firecracker" is no misnomer - it's incredibly spicy! Please fill in some much needed details on this recipe!
I read this recipe, and I am not sure why people have had trouble following it, although the recipe does require a bit of culinary intuition. Here are a few pointers that some might find handy:
1. When a recipe calls for a marinade for a specific ingredient, you usually want to mix up your marinade and throw in whatever you're supposed to be soaking. So mix up the "shrimp marinade" and throw those little shrimp right on in there before you heat up your wok. They won't need long, it's really just the coating for the shrimp.
2. Mix up the "firecracker sauce" before you start the recipe as well. You'll need the finished product for the cooking portion of the recipe. It's pretty clear which ingredients go into the sauce. (This is where the second part of the chili paste comes into play)
3. Now follow the steps exactly as written. You'll have the nice crispy coating on the shrimp for cooking them in step 6, and you'll have the Firecracker Shrimp Sauce you need for step 8. Around step 10 is where you'll notice you need the ingredients (other than the shrimp and the noodles) listed at the beginning of the ingredients list.
4. "Finishing" is a culinary term that basically means you add a bit more to taste, usually to bring the correct balance of flavors to the dish. Step 11 for the home cook may read, "drizzle lightly with sesame oil to taste".
I hope someone out there finds this helpful!
It's hard to decide how to rate this one. On the one hand, it's an extremely user unfriendly recipe. Also, there were quite a few interpretations of just what chili paste is on the web, with no hint here. I haven't seen ready made chili paste for Chinese cooking, so decided to use a recipe claiming to be by Ming Tsai. This is actually not all that spicy. There didn't seem to be enough oil. The amount of rice wine in the Firecracker Sauce seemed excessive to me. (I did follow the recipe.) There was more Firecracker Sauce than needed, which I think is wasteful. I would have liked rather more vegetables - I measured them carefully because I wanted to know how this recipe would turn out. And then, I got so busy with things in the end, I completely forgot about the cilantro and sesame oil. However, I do think this tastes reasonably good, although I have no idea how P.F. Chang's version tastes. I think I would give 3 and 1/2 stars, but will round down this time.