Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Red Chili Sauce
I’ve had Coconut Shrimp at many restaurants, but this homemade version beats them all. It’s remarkably easy to make—so easy, in fact, that my kids have made almost the entire thing by themselves (except, of course, for the frying in hot oil part). You can do all of the preparation in advance so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is quickly fry the shrimp. And the sauce comes straight out of a bottle.
If you were eating out, you’d probably share this dish as an appetizer. You could do the same at home — it also makes fabulous finger food for a party — but I usually serve it as a light dinner with an Asian-style slaw.
Depending on where you buy your shrimp (I like the brand shown above from Whole Foods), you might be able to find it already peeled and deveined. If not, start by peeling the shrimp. Leave the last section and the tail on; this makes it easier to work with and prettier to serve. To devein, take a small paring knife and cut down the center of the shrimp’s back, about 1/4-inch deep. If you can see a dark vein, remove and discard it; if not, don’t bother with it.
Next, set up an assembly line. (This is where the kids come in.) Mix the cornstarch and seasoning in a zip-lock bag; whisk the egg whites in a small bowl; and combine the unsweetened coconut and sugar in a shallow dish. Add all the shrimp to the zip-lock bag and shake to coat. Dip each shrimp in the egg whites and then dredge in the coconut.
It’s a messy job, so kids love to do it.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. This can be done several hours ahead of time.
When you’re ready to eat, heat about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet. Fry the shrimp until golden brown on both sides.
Drain on papertowels (though you’ll notice it’s not greasy at all)…
Arrange on a plate and serve with bottled Sweet Red Chili Sauce, which you can find in the Asian section of most supermarkets. These are the brands I like and am most familiar with:
Coconut Crusted Shrimp with Sweet Red Chili Sauce
Serves 4 as a main course
2 pounds uncooked extra large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined with tails left intact (see note below on buying shrimp)*
½ cup cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large egg whites (see photos below on how to separate eggs)
2 cups unsweetened medium shred coconut (available at Whole Foods or natural food markets)**
2½ tablespoons sugar
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Sweet Red Chili Sauce (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)
1. Place cornstarch, salt and cayenne in a large zip-lock bag and mix well. Add shrimp to bag, seal shut and shake to coat evenly. Set aside.
2. Using a fork, beat egg whites in a small bowl until frothy. Place coconut and sugar in large shallow bowl or pie dish and mix well.
3. Holding each shrimp by the tail, shake off excess cornstarch, dip into egg whites (let excess drip off), then dredge in coconut mixture, turning to coat evenly (if the sugar drops to the bottom of the dish a bit, move the shrimp around so it gets coated with both sugar and coconut.) Place shrimp on foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. This can be done several hours ahead of time.
4. Pour enough oil into large nonstick pan to reach depth of ½ inch; heat over high heat until hot. To test if oil is hot enough, use tongs to hold one shrimp by the tail and submerge it in oil; if it sizzles and crackles, it’s ready. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add shrimp to hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown. It should take between 40-60 seconds per side; if shrimp is browning too quickly, turn heat down a bit. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shrimp to plate lined with paper towels to drain. Arrange shrimp on platter and serve with Sweet Red Chili Sauce.
*If you are buying fresh shrimp that is already peeled, you will only need 1 pound 10 ounces (to account for the weight of the shells). I usually buy unpeeled frozen shrimp because most fresh shrimp in supermarkets is just frozen shrimp that has been defrosted. Since you never know how long it’s been sitting out, it’s better to buy frozen and defrost it yourself. It only takes a few minutes when you soak it in warm water.
**I like to use unsweetened coconut and add sugar to it, as opposed to sweetened flaked coconut, because it’s healthier, much easier to work with, and adds great texture to the dish.
To separate egg white from egg yolk, tap the egg on the edge of a bowl so that it cracks across the middle. Working over the bowl, gently transfer the egg yolk from one half of the shell to the other, letting the egg white fall into the bowl underneath. Be careful not to “cut” the yolk on the shell. Keep moving the yolk back and forth between the shells until all of the egg white has dropped into the bowl. Save yolks for another use or discard.