The very first time I tried guoba was with my grandfather. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Taipei for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch eating out is very much a family tradition where my grandfather would order all kinds of different dishes I hadnʼt tried before. This time he ordered guoba and I believe he ordered it to try to impress me.
Back then I was really young so my grandfather would try to impress his princess granddaughter and say things like the magic dish will "talk." Even back then, at such a young age, I thought my grandfather was talking silly. How could a dish talk? I remember the waiter put a big plate of "crispy rice thing" on the table and wondering why they served crispy popped rice treats and when will it talk.
Two minutes later, the same waiter came back with a pot of hot, steamy, fragrant shrimp sauce and poured the sauce on top of this weird looking crispy rice thing and the moment the sauce touched the guoba, a loud sizzling sound came out and it was absolutely eye-opening to me! That was my first memory of this fun and interesting dish.
For the guoba:1.
Place the rice on one of the baking sheets, sprinkle salt on the rice and mix it gently with a spoon. Spread some oil on the surface of the spoon, if you find the rice is too sticky.2.
Gently flatten the rice on the baking sheet, but don't press the rice too hard onto the baking sheet; just gently press down to help the rice form the shape without being too crumbly. If your rice is still quite warm, leave it to cool down before you cover it with cling film and store in the fridge overnight.3.
The next day, heat the oven to 212 F and bake the rice for 1 hour. After 1 hour, take out the rice from the oven and use a knife to slice the rice into even square shapes.4.
After slicing the rice, flip the rice over and bake for another hour to make sure the rice is fully dehydrated. If you feel like the rice is still a little bit moist, cook a little bit longer in the oven.5.
After the rice has dehydrated, take out from the oven. Heat some oil to 350 F and put a little piece of the rice into the wok to see if the rice puffs up (this should only take about 5 seconds).6.
When the rice starts to puff up in the oil, turn off the heat and cook for 15-20 seconds, taking care not to overcook or burn the guoba. Drain guoba on a paper towel-lined plate, then prepare the shrimp sauce.
For the shrimp:
Marinate the shrimp with all the marinade ingredients for 20 minutes.
For the shrimp sauce:1.
Mix water, chili bean sauce, ketchup, sugar and black vinegar in a bowl.2.
Heat up the oil in the wok, stir-fry the shrimp until they have changed color, take the shrimp out, leaving the oil in the wok, and place the shrimp on a plate, reserving for later use.3.
Use the same wok to stir-fry the onion and garlic until it's fragrant. Add the chili bean sauce mixture to the wok and bring to boil. Add edamame and yellow pepper and boil for 10-20 seconds.4.
Add the shrimp back into the wok. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and check the density of the sauce. Once it starts to thicken and boil, turn the stove off. Season with salt, if needed. If you feel the sauce isn't thick enough, add more cornstarch slurry and bring the sauce to a boil again.
Place guoba on the serving plate, pour the sauce over the dish, and it is ready to serve. You can also pour the sauce onto the guoba at the table so everyone can listen to the crackling sounds.