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Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimp/Squid/etc. in Philadelphia


I just got back from visiting family on the west coast and, having hit up all of my favorite eateries there, I'm again craving some of the Asian foods that I haven't been able to find in Philadelphia... In particular, anyone know of any places (as close to Center City as possible, preferably, although I will always travel for amazing food!) that have salt and pepper shrimp (or squid or fish). It's deep fried in an über light batter with lots of salt and pepper and tossed with sautéd onions and hot peppers. Funny how such a simple seasoning combo can be so good! Thanks in advance for any tips, fellow foodies.

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  1. Vietnam Restaurant has salt and pepper shrimp and squid. Not sure if it is the exact preparation, I haven't had it in a while, but I enjoyed it. Here's a link to their menu/website.
    It is on 11th street between Race and Vine

    1. Salt and pepper seafood (aka salt-baked) was recently discussed on this thread
      I like Shiao Lan Kung's.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dib

        I've had salt baked seafood at Vietnam, Shiao Lan Kung and Lee How Fook, and would rate SLK as the best, Vietnam second, and LHF third. At SLK you can get a combination with shrimp, scallop and squid. It is fantastic--light, non-greasy, fresh good quality seafood, comes out of the kitchen super hot and great flavor.

        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          I've tried it at all those places too and agree, though I'd throw in Four Rivers as being comparable to Shiao Lan Kung, though you do have to request it hot (or, I guess I do). I like it with the razor-thin jalapeno slices and some places don't consistently prepare it that way.

      2. I agree with Vietnam for salt baked seafood.

        Nam Phuong on 11th and Washington Ave also has very good salt baked squid and shrimp as well as soft shell crab. They serve the crab with a lime/pepper dipping sauce that is yummy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Philly Ray

          Salt baked soft shell crab with lime pepper dipping sauce - be still my heart! I know where my dinner is coming from tonite! Thanks Philly ray

        2. Thanks so much for the replies! I wasn't aware that "salt baked" was synonymous with "salt and pepper"; seems odd, since it's fried not baked. Ha.

          I think I'll have to try Shiao Lan Kung to start--especially, since they have Salt Baked Tofu for my kosher dining companion! And other must-have dishes there? Some sort of vegetable, perhaps?

          I'm also a fan of soft-shelled crab, so that'll have to be next.

          3 Replies
          1. re: nwtransplantne

            Get the snow pea leaves sauteed with garlic at SLK. It is always delicious. Their sauteed stringbeans are good too, though they might have pork in them. I have also loved their steamed fish dishes in the past.

            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

              So I tried out SLK and got the Salt Baked Trio (Squid, Scallop, Shrimp) and I was a little disappointed: it just wasn't nearly peppery enough. And I'm used to having more of the dry "sauce" onions, peppers, etc. alongside. However, I did try the snow pea leaves and they were great! The hot and sour soup was also good--a rare version that's actually sour!

              I'll keep trying the other places you all recommended and see if I can't find the version of Salt Baked/Salt and Pepper that I'm craving.

              Thanks again!

            2. re: nwtransplantne

              To be clearer, I don't think 'salt baked' is synonymous with 'salt and pepper', since there's a salt-baked chicken dish that -is- actually chicken baked in salt. But based on a few menus, what is literally 'salt and pepper squid' is translated into English as both 'salt baked squid' and 'salt and pepper squid'.

            3. I guess this thread is as good a place as any to ask this question...

              Is it customary for salt baked shrimp to be prepared/served with the shells still on? When I ordered it at Vietnam, that's how they served it. I'm not squeamish about that, and it made them quite crunchy, but I was just wondering.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Philly Ray

                that's the only way i've seen it, although i've not really looked that hard.

                i don't get it - unless you're going to eat the shells, you have to eat the outside part off the shells, _then_ eat the shrimp, which don't taste as good as they would if the outside part was still attached.

                basically, i had it once and then decided to stick w/squid.

                1. re: Bob Loblaw

                  That's was my impression too, but I ate the shells the one time I ordered it. Like I said, it was crunchy, but now I stick with squid or the soft shell crab at Nam Phuong.

                2. re: Philly Ray

                  I've only ever seen it served with shells on. In theory, I think that the shrimps are supposed to be those with the softer shells (akin to soft shelled crabs) or are supposed to be of the smaller variety where it's shells aren't too hard as you are supposed to just eat the shells. In practice, I've only ever seen jumbo shrimps done this way, and it's super annoying.

                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    I ate the shells too, and they were crunchy but not really unpleasant. I think they're probably really only edible when they've been deep fried though. I've seen thai recipes that call for ground shrimp shells, so maybe including them is an asian thing? I dunno.

                    1. re: gwebber

                      I'm not a fan of the shell on. At SLK, they give you the option of shell on or off. I just order them without.

                      1. re: juice

                        I eat the shells but I'm more inclined to get squid than shrimp because you need to fry it just right for the shrimp shells to be a non-intrusive consistency. Not always easy to do.

                    2. re: Philly Ray

                      You can get them shells-off as well at almost any place. SLK tops my list too, but Sang Kee isn't bad.

                    3. Szechuan Tasty House, 9th and Arch Streets, has this dish and it's delicious, perfectly fried.

                      1. Square on Square at 19th and Chestnut has what you are talking about. The shrimp are fried in a very light batter and it is delicous. It is not on the menu, but they will make it for you.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                          Excuse me while I bump this for future reference.

                          1. re: dream_of_giusti

                            Oh Yummy! This is hands down, one of my all time favorite foods. I've only seen it on some random dim sum menus on vacation in CT, and on one buffet line in Warminster, which is now 45 minutes from where I live. (outside of Bedminster, PA). Anyone know of Central/Upper Bucks County Restaurants that serve this? Or a good recipe? I can warm up the wok and chop away as you type. :)

                            1. re: sommrluv

                              Hi, sorry to bump this old post, but I figured out how to make this, or at least a pleasing imposter to my own taste buds. Please forgive the non-precise instructions, I never measure anything. :) The only downside is that they cooldown quickly, so if you aren't planning on eatting a lb, I wouldn't make a lb.

                              Tools: Trusty Cast Iron Skillet, 2 would be perfect, Spatula, fork or tongs, two stainless bowl (one medium, one small), bowl or round container.


                              Raw, tail on shrimp (Tiger Bay or Thai something were the best brands, they are deveined and half shelled. 25 count per lb were a perfect size IMO)
                              Cornstarch, Pepper, Salt, Jalepeno, Onion, Green Pepper, Lard (or oil of choice, lard worked nicer than light olive oil or peanut oil), teaspoon of oil (any)

                              In one skillet, I sauteed sliced Jalepenos (with/without seeds per your heat preference) chopped onions, chopped peppers until cooked, but crisp. They make a nice background for the shrimp when served over rice. I found if I started this, while breading my shrimp, as long as I kept it covered it stayed warm enough. I fish out the jalepenos before I eat it, it just adds that background spice.

                              Defrost shrimp in stainless bowl by running under cold water for a few minutes. When shrimp are defrosted, remove all shell except the tail, cover shrimp with water, and add about a tablespoon of salt, depending upon how many shrimp you are doing. Make sure you mix this well so the salt won't score your stainless, but the metal will keep everything chilled.

                              In the second small bowl, mix tsp oil and water together. This is your pre-dip station.

                              The last bowl will be your cornstarch mix. Luckily S & P is cheap, because a lot of it goes into your cornstarch. For every ten shrimp, I would estimate a little over a cup, cup and a half cornstarch, as much as a tablespoon pepper, possibly as much salt. You really need to taste the spices strongly in the cornstarch mix or it won't come through after it's fried. I put fine ground salt/pepper, plus coarse sea salt because I like the crunch. Go nuts.

                              Before you bread, put enough lard in your skillet to cover and heat to medium-high/high. You need the oil to come up halfway on the shrimp.

                              Using the tail for a handle, drag the shrimp through the oil mix, than dredge the shrimp through the cornstarch, coating as heavily as possible.

                              It only takes a few moments on each side, and be careful not to overload the skillet. They have always come out crispy, and very tender, salty and peppery.

                              Sorry my description is so long and agonizing...I tried a few different ways, and I like this best. The more I make them, the more I want them! Hey, and they are gluten free!

                              1. re: sommrluv

                                Thanks for the recipe. My husband always raves about this, so I think I will make it for dinner sometime this week.