Here's why you should try this dish: It's better than take-out, worth the dirty dishes and less expensive. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Note: Anaheim, poblano or green bell pepper can be substituted for the jalapeno to reduce the kick.

1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon each: sugar, freshly ground pepper
1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled, finely chopped (or 4 green onions)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded, thinly sliced
1 pound colossal-size shrimp, 13 to 15 pieces, peeled, tail intact, deveined
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup vegetable oil or expeller-pressed canola oil

1. Mix salt, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Mix shallots, garlic and jalapenos in another small bowl. Pat shrimp very dry with towel. Toss lightly in a bowl with the cornstarch.

2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed wok or small saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. (Dip the edge of a shrimp in the oil; it should bubble vigorously.) Add a quarter of the shrimp; continuously move them around in the oil with metal tongs or a wire strainer, until they turn pink, about 40 seconds. Remove to a plate to drain; repeat with remaining shrimp.

3. Very carefully pour the oil off into a heatproof container. Return 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok (or a large nonstick skillet). Heat over medium-high. Add the salt mixture; stir-fry 10 seconds. Add the shallot mixture; stir-fry 10 seconds. Add all the shrimp; stir-fry just until shrimp are tender, about 1 minute. Immediately remove from wok to serving platter. Serve hot.

Red chili pineapple shrimp:
Substitute 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes for the jalapeno and add it along with 1 cup fresh pineapple (cut into 1/2-inch dice) to the shallot-garlic mixture in step 1. Sprinkle finished dish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 221 calories, 45% of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 172 mg cholesterol, 6 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 752 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Coconut rice
In a rice cooker, place 2 cups medium-grain rice, 1 can (14 ounces) low-fat unsweetened coconut milk and 3/4 cup water; cook according to manufacturer's directions. Alternatively, simmer over very low heat in a small, heavy-duty saucepan, covered tightly, until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat: let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.