Potsam Loo’s Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts & Shrimp

From Grace Young: 

Potsam Loo, a Hakka home cook from Malaysia, taught me this stir-fry which is infused with the delicate aroma and taste of cilantro. Cilantro bunches vary in size. When I cook this I use a medium bunch which weighs about 4 ounces. Be sure to pick through the bunch and remove any wilted or yellow sprigs. If your cilantro has roots remove them before cutting the entire bunch including the stems into 2-inch pieces. I then put the cilantro in the colander portion of a salad spinner and wash it under cold water before spinning it several times to remove all the excess water. You will have about 5 cups of cilantro after it’s been spun. If you desire a subtler cilantro flavor you can reduce it by half and increase the bean sprouts to 4 cups. 

Loo’s village Hui Zhou in China makes a version of this recipe that calls for about 1/3 cup dried shrimp. It is said that the villagers like their food pungent and the dried shrimp has a stronger flavor. If using dried shrimp soak the shrimp in about 1/3 cup cold water for about 30 minutes to soften. Drain and pat dry before adding it to the stir-fry as you would the fresh. Less salt is required if using dried shrimp. 

For the Lunar New Year’s Eve meal, the feast is designed around meaning- laden foods to ensure auspicious blessings for the coming year based on the Chinese believe that “you are what you eat.” The shrimp in this stir-fry symbolizes happiness and cilantro represents compassion. 


2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil 

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon minced ginger

4 ounces small shrimp, shelled and deveined, or 1/3 cup dried shrimp, per the headnote

3 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and patted dry (about 6 ounces)

½ cup julienned carrot

1 bunch cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 ounces)

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12–inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the peanut oil, add the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry 15 seconds or until the garlic begins to brown. Add the shrimp and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute or until shrimp begins to turn color but is not cooked through. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry 5 seconds. Add the carrots and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the bean sprouts just begin to wilt. Sprinkle the cilantro over the entire mixture without stirring it in. Cover, and cook on high heat for 20 seconds. Uncover, and stir-fry 10 seconds until combined. Sprinkle on the salt and sugar, and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked and the cilantro is just wilted. Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish.