Coconut Shrimp with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

My head and heart are still sort of spinning from 2 weeks of this blissful baby lovefest (and a few more photos here).  I consider myself so lucky to live so close to Ella and her family so that I've not had to go more than a few days without the requisite hugs and snuggles.  But through all of the joy and love I can't help thinking what an amazing thing this life can be sometimes.  It was exactly one year ago that I was in the process of saying good-bye to my Mom.  I know she would have been over the moon about baby Ella and it saddens me terribly to think that she's missing all of this.  But it's also sort of astounding to me that life has an uncanny way of looping itself from pain to joy and I will tell you that I've been ever so conscious of that circle of life experience through it all.

And somehow I've got to segue from that to coconut shrimp.  Hmmmmm.  How about this... maybe it's because my head has sort of been in the clouds for a couple of weeks that I did something quite uncharacteristic.  Something very un-Circle B Kitchen-like.

Rules were broken.  And in an odd sort of way it feels a bit freeing.  Like sometimes you just have to break out and do something that you wouldn't normally under any circumstances do and find out what happens.  Cue the crickets.  Nothing happened.  Nothing bad anyway.

But what did happen is this incredibly and amazingly delicious coconut shrimp that I... wait for it... fried.  Yep.  You read that right.  I filled a big pot with oil and heated it up and I fried us some shrimp.  Perhaps there are those of you right now who are going... so?  Well, folks, we just don't fry things around here.  We take recipes for fried things and we figure out how to bake them or roast them so they'll be healthier and still taste great, which is what I intended to do here, but then I caved.  I wanted those shrimp fried.  The way they're supposed to be.  I make no apologies and I'd do it again, and well, yeah, I'm totally doing it again.

I've had a couple of recipes for coconut shrimp laying around for awhile and when I came across another one from The Kitchen, I decided it was time to get on it because, really, who doesn't love coconut shrimp?  I suppose that the coconut haters would take issue with this; we have one of those in our family so I know they're out there.  I'm just not one of them, but I still had to decide whether to use sweetened or unsweetened coconut because my recipes differered on this, but in the end,

unsweetened won out.  I also wanted to get some coconut milk into the recipe so here's what I came up with...

Get your standard dredging station set up thusly...

Just coat each shrimp in the flour, dip it into the coconut milk-egg mixture and then into the coconut and breadcrumbs and lay them on a rack...

Then get your oil nice and hot (I like 365 degrees)

and then lower them carefully, one at a time, frying up about 3 or 4 at a time and then onto paper towels and then back on the rack until they're all fried up.  

Oh man, these were so dang good.  Of course they were, I don't even need to tell you.  That being sort of an understatement, I will also tell you that the biggest challenge in this recipe actually turned out to be the dipping sauce.  The first one I made (in the photo) was an Asian dipping sauce I like to use for dumplings, etc., but which turned out to be way too soy sauce-y.  I must thank The Husband for helping me figure this out.  His palate is incredible and 100% reliable, except sometimes when it's not, so I went back to the kitchen and put together this outstanding dipping sauce that I'm happy to say is a perfect complement to our coconut shrimp.  It's sort of sweet and sort of tangy and kinda spicy and mostly just perfect.

So there you have it, folks.  The coconut shrimp of my dreams and hopefully yours too, fried to perfection.  Can't believe I actually just said that.  But here's the recipe...

Coconut Shrimp with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

Serves 4 people with manners and self discipline or 2 people without either

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, tail left on
Kosher salt
¾ cup flour + 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup panko-style bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 - 2 quarts canola, vegetable, or peanut oil
Season shrimp with salt and set aside.

Prepare your dredging station (you will need 3 bowls):

Mix coconut and panko breadcrumbs in one bowl and set aside.

Mix the eggs, coconut milk and 2 tablespoons flour in another bowl and whisk until homogenous.

Mix the flour and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt in the 3rd bowl.

Holding each by the tail, dredge the shrimp in the flour to coat evenly and then dip into the egg mixture, allowing the excess batter to drip off.  Then dredge it in the coconut mixture until completely coated and place on a wire rack.

Once the shrimp are all coated, heat the oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 365°F as measured on an instant read or candy thermometer.

Carefully lower the shrimp into the oil one at a time and fry until golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 2-3 minutes total.  To keep the heat at a more even temperature don’t fry more than 3 or 4 at a time.

Transfer the shrimp to a sheet pan lined with paper towels and then place on a wire rack until they are all cooked.  Serve immediately with dipping sauce on the side.

Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
½ teaspoon red chile flakes (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1 tablespoon corn starch

Combine vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, chili flakes, and ½ cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking to combine until sugar is dissolved. Combine remaining tablespoon water and corn starch in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to form a slurry. Whisk into the sauce, bring to a boil and then set aside to cool.