VIDEO: Chinese Kitchen: Cook up ebi-chili like Iron Chef

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

VIDEO: Chinese Kitchen: Cook up ebi-chili like Iron Chef

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Ebi-chili is a sweet and spicy shrimp dish you’ll find at many Chinese restaurants in Japan.

The popularity of this dish is often credited to Chen Kenichi, one of the cast members of “Ryori no Tetsujin,” the Japanese version of the “Iron Chef.”

However, it is actually the Kenichi’s father, Chen Kenmin, who is the mastermind behind the sweet and spicy shrimp recipe.

Chen Kenmin was born in 1919 in a deep part of Szechuan Province and at age 10, he began his career as a cook, according to the website of Shisen Hanten. This restaurant chain based in Tokyo was founded by Chen Kenmin in 1958 and passed down to Chen Kenichi.  

After years of working in kitchens around China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Chen Kenmin arrived in Japan in 1952. Back when Chen Kenmin arrived in Japan, dou ban jiang (chili bean sauce), a cornerstone of the taste of his hometown, could not be imported. Instead, he replicated the condiment with some adjustments to the Japanese palette. The dou ban jiang sauce led Chen Kenmin to his now-famous Ebi-Chili recipe, TV-Asahi reported.

Kenichi’s appearance on the Iron Chef back in the 1990s solidified the prominence of the saucy and spicy shrimp dish created by his father.

Last year, a video showing Chen Kenichi cooking up the dish on YouTube garnered over 200,000 views. Kenichi didn’t use any special material or expensive tools. It was a simple recipe and comments below expressed surprise at its great flavors and ease to make.

As a fan of the Iron Chef and spicy food lover, I had no other option but to give it a try.

Since this was my first time cooking Ebi-Chili, I found myself a bit confused with the timing of adding the several condiments the recipe calls for. But the result of my awkward cooking far exceeded my expectation. The frozen shrimp I bought at a bargain price from my local supermarket somehow transformed into a fine dish and the best Ebi-Chili I have had in my life.

I recommend that you “allez cuisiner!” and treat yourself to this Iron Chef-certified dish!


Ebi No Chili Sauce / Ebi-Chili


  • Peeled shrimp (10 pieces)
  • Green onion 30g (10cm)

Condiments to wash shrimp

  • A little bit of salt, pepper, and a moderate amount of water

Condiments to pre-season shrimp

  • A little bit of salt, pepper, starch
  • Oil for frying (15cc, 30cc)

Ingredients for chili sauce         

  • Grated ginger (10cc)
  • Grated garlic (7.5cc)
  • Tomato ketchup (22.5cc)
  • Dou ban jiang (chili bean sauce, 7.5cc) 

Ingredients to adjust flavor

  • Cooking sake (15cc)
  • Sugar (1.67cc)
  • Salt (a little)
  • Chinese soup stock (a little)
  • Pepper (a little)
  • Water (200cc)
  • Starched mixed with water (200cc each of water and starch)
  • Chili oil (5cc)
  • Vinegar (1.67cc)



1. Preparation of shrimp before cooking

  • Make a slit in the back of each shrimp and de-vein it.
  • Put the shrimp in a bowl and a pinch of salt, starch, and water (moderate amount).
  • Knead the shrimp in the bowl.
  • Rinse the shrimp.
  • Put the shrimp on a plate with kitchen towels, and carefully wipe up the water.

2. Pre-seasoning of Shrimp

  • Place the shrimp in a bowl and add a small amount of salt. Mix in with a bit of pepper. Next, add some starch and mix until the shrimp are thinly coated.
  • Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

3. Preparation for Chili Sauce

  • Put the following condiments in a bowl: grated ginger (10cc), grated garlic (7.5cc), ketchup (22.5cc), dou ban jiang/chili bean sauce (7.5cc).
  • Slice a white portion of green onion (30g/10cm) into pieces and put them in a separate bowl.

4. Time to cook

  • Pour oil (15cc) in a frying pan on a stove over high heat.
  • Add the pre-seasoned shrimps and heat them for 20 to 30 seconds. Flip them in the pan to do the same to the other side. (The idea is to create a barrier around each shrimp to seal its flavor inside.) Set the shrimp aside.
  • Pour oil (30cc) into the same frying pan.
  • Add grated ginger (10cc), grated garlic (7.5cc), ketchup (22.5cc), dou ban jiang/chili bean sauce (7.5cc) and fry them. (It is recommended to gather them in one portion of the pan to fry them together at first before spreading and mixing them on other portions of the pan.)
  • Turn the stove off once bubbles start to appear on the surface. Let the ingredients cook with the remaining heat.
  • With the stove still off, add water (200cc) to the pan.
  • Add cooking sake (15cc), sugar (1.67cc), a pinch of salt, Chinese stock, and pepper. Mix them together. (Check the flavor and adjust as needed.)
  • Add the shrimp into the pan and return to heat.
  • Add the sliced green onion (30g).
  • Make sure that the sauce boils once. This takes about 30 seconds.
  • Turn the stove off.
  • Add starch mixed with water (30cc).
  • Mix and stir them together to prevent them from having solid portions.
  • Once the sauce gains thickness, turn the stove back on.
  • Make sure the sauce and shrimp are cooked thoroughly.
  • Add chili oil (5cc), if you want to add more spice.
  • Finish up the recipe by stirring in vinegar (1.67cc).
  • Serve the dish with a side of steamed rice, over rice, or alone.

Enjoy and いただきます(itadakimasu)!

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