Panda Express Chili Crisp Shrimp Is A Banger

This Chinese condiment is the star of the newest entrée at Panda Express.

When you want a rich kick of heat and a savory flavor boost, you'll want to reach for chili crisp, the Chinese condiment whose popularity has exploded in North America in recent years. It's made of hot oil poured over crushed chili flakes, garlic, and other aromatics, and the result is a silky concoction you can drizzle or mix into practically anything (even ice cream). After years of increased public demand for chili crisp, Panda Express has finally found an innovative way to add it to the menu.

These days, you can find chili crisp, both generic and boutique brands, on grocery store shelves (check out our favorites here), but seeing it expand to American fast food is even more fun. The newest limited-time-only entrée at Panda Express is the Chili Crisp Shrimp, consisting of fried shrimp, onions, and red bell pepper, all tossed in a wok with chili crisp.

I wanted to see how chili crisp would fit in a fast food setting, so I visited my nearby Panda Express location to check it out.

How does Panda Express’ new Chili Crisp Shrimp taste?

I'm going to come right out and say it: The Chili Crisp Shrimp from Panda Express is terrific. This is coming from someone who's historically not the biggest Panda Express fan, because unlike so many of you, I don't love the chain's flagship dish, Orange Chicken. But I can definitely stand behind this shrimp.

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Not only is it crispy (I even got the dregs of the batch that had clearly been sitting under the heat lamp), but the chili flakes are plentiful, and it's a touch spicy, albeit not as spicy as it looks. Its best attribute is that it's not terribly greasy. That's a pretty remarkable feat, considering chili crisp is mainly made of oil, and it'd be all too easy to mess up this dish with slightly too much of it.

Although the onion and bell pepper might seem like background players here, their inclusion makes sense: The onions fit right in with the garlicky flavor in the oil, and the red bell peppers add a gentle, sweet capsicum bitterness that amplifies those same notes in the chili crisp.

This menu item is sticking around until the end of December, so you have plenty of time to order it. I'm a little bummed that it won't be a permanent member of the lineup, because the Chili Crisp Shrimp would have become my go-to Panda Express order. I'll just be sure to grab it at least one more time before it says goodbye.

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