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Make your own coconut shrimp with spicy dipping sauce

Coconut shrimp with mango-habanero sauce.

Coconut shrimp with mango-habanero sauce. Credit: Marge Perry

The year is almost over — which gives us as much reason to celebrate the end of this very long year as to welcome the new one. We may not ring it in with the usual hoopla, but hopefully our New Year’s Eve celebration will be more intimate and heartfelt by sharing it with the people we have made this pandemic journey with.

New Year’s Eve food is often about delicious little nibbles: grazing food. While I would not relish the idea of making coconut shrimp for a crowd (it would require too many batches of frying), it is ideally suited for a small gathering.

The bright mango-habanero sauce has robust tropically-inspired flavors and is simple to make. If habanero is too much heat, substitute milder jalapeño chilis. The sauce requires nothing more than briefly cooking the ingredients and throwing them in the blender. (By the way, this sauce is also great on simple baked fish for an easy weeknight meal.) By all means make it a day or two ahead.

The coconut shrimp takes a little more effort — but it isn’t a whole lot, considering the golden, crunchy and sweet-crusted payoff. Be sure to use shrimp with the tails on — those handy tails become your handle when dipping the uncooked shrimp in the dry and wet ingredients.

Thank you for making the cooking journey with me these past twelve months — I love all your emails and look forward to more in 2021. Wishing you a happy, healthy year filled with all kinds of deliciousness!

Mango-Habanero Sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup chopped onion (about half a medium onion)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger

1/4 habanero chili, seeded and finely chopped

1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and habanero; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mango and until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, curry powder and salt, and cook until the mixture is thickened, about 2 minutes. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes; transfer to a blender and purée.

Coconut Shrimp

6 tablespoons + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut water

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

1 pound large (16 — 20 per pound) peeled shrimp

Canola oil for frying

1. Combine 6 tablespoons flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Combine the buttermilk, coconut water and egg white, and whisk it into the dry ingredients until the batter is smooth. Place the remaining 1/4 cup flour in a clean bowl and the coconut flakes in another bowl.

2. Hold a shrimp by the tail and dip it in the flour; shake off the excess and dip it into the batter, again shaking off the excess. Dip it into the coconut flakes, press lightly to help the coconut adhere, and place it on a plate. Repeat with remaining shrimp.

3. Heat enough canola oil in a medium size saucepan for it to come up about 2-inches in the pot. When the oil is 350 degrees, add four shrimp to the pot and cook, turning once, until it is uniformly beautifully golden and crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a plate lined with paper towel. After each batch, allow the oil to return to 350 degrees (and skim off any little bits of coconut floating in the oil) before proceeding. Serves 4 to 6

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