Looking for a new way to do a shrimp appetizer? My Coconut Shrimp are a must-try then! They are by far my friends' favorite shrimp dish that I do, and probably the second most highly requested food item when they come over (ribs being the first). They're sweet, spicy, savory, crunchy and will be the guaranteed favorite food at your next party too.
Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Mango Dipping Sauce
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined (tails removed - optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp African bird's eye pepper OR 1 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 (16 oz) bag sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup spicy mango chutney
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp rice wine vinegar or juice of 1 lime
Pour the peanut oil into a heavy pot (cast iron is best) until you have about 2-3 inches high of oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer. Conversely, if you place the handle part of a wooden spoon and small bubbles start to form around it, you know it's ready for frying. While the oil heats, prepare the shrimp.
Take shrimp and pat very dry with paper towels. The drier the shrimp, the more the batter will stick to them. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, beer, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper and egg until a smooth batter is formed. You want the consistency to be of thick pancake batter, so you may need to add more beer depending on what kind you use. Drop the shrimp in the batter and make sure they're all evenly coated.
Layer out the shredded coconut in a large baking dish, about the size you'd use for a lasagna. Take the shrimp, one at a time, and lay out on the coconut in one even layer, careful not to overlap. Gently press down on the coconut to get it to stick to the batter (it should stick pretty easily), then turn the shrimp over and get the other side coated.
Drop the shrimp in the oil, about 4-6 at a time depending on how big your shrimp are, and fry until golden brown on all sides, about 40 seconds per side. You'll have to turn them over once during the frying process as shrimp tend to lap over to one side when frying. Once golden brown, remove gently with a slotted spoon or "spider" and onto a plate lined with paper towel. Use the spoon to remove any pieces of floating coconut in the oil. Repeat process with remaining shrimp until they're all done.
Quickly make the dipping sauce. Combine the mango chutney, mustard and vinegar or lime juice in a food processor and process until the pieces of mango are minced and the sauce combines. Pour into a serving bowl and serve.
You can do the dipping sauce up to 3 days in advance. Want a milder sauce? Use a mild chutney. I use Indian mango chutney that I find in the international foods section of my market. If you can't find mango chutney, then use apricot jam or even orange marmalade. And to get it spicy, drop in a minced jalepeno or serrano pepper to taste.
The coconut burns very, very quickly, so it's imperative that you skim off as much coconut "floaters" as possible during batches. You won't be able to get them all, but do try to get most out. This gives the oil a chance to come back up to 350 degrees again as well.
My favorite shrimp to use are Gulf shrimp (from Louisianna). They're the sweetest and simply best shrimp. Do not use Tiger shrimp (from Thailand or wherever); they have zero taste and take longer to cook. You want medium-sized shrimp for best results.
My recipe calls for African birds eye pepper. This is an extremely spicy pepper, about twice the power of cayenne. If you can find it and love spicy then I recommend using it. If you can't find it or want to relax the spicy factor, then use cayenne and do it to taste. My recipe is for a 6 on a 1-10 spicy scale using the african/cayenne measurments; adjust accordingly.
Make-ahead tip: ask your fish person to peel and de-vein your shrimp for you while you shop!
You can't reall make the shrimp ahead of time. When frying you need to do right before guests arrive or as they are coming in. What you can do, however, is fry them about 10 minutes before guests arrive and then keep them spread out on a baking sheet in a 275 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. This will keep them warm and toasty without over-cooking them or burning the coconut.