During my time as a restaurant owner, we would sometimes host Hawaii night. Although our community is often described as a little town in a big city, we still live the city life.
Tropical beaches and swaying palm trees are only in our dreams until we book such a vacation. That said, our Hawaii nights offered a taste and climate with a Polynesian flair, and I can still recall our many patrons entering our doors with great anticipation.
The entire staff would wear hula skirts and leis, and our menu was an array of Hawaiian appetizers and entrées. One of the greatest people to work with me was my dear friend Johnny Lahara.
In the kitchen, Johnny and I would prepare coconut shrimp. It was Johnny’s idea to soak the shrimp in coconut milk while the rest of our dedicated kitchen staff prepared many other delights. The Hawaii evenings are a thing of the past, but I still prepare this festive dish often.
This recipe also goes very well with chicken in place of the shrimp. Just cut chicken breast into finger slices or medallions.
COCONUT SHRIMP AND APRICOT DIP
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left on
2 cups, plus 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 cups coconut flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a bowl, combine shrimp with two cups of the coconut milk, making sure that shrimp is well covered. Chill for one hour.
In a shallow baking dish, whisk remaining coconut milk with eggs. In a separate shallow baking dish, mix panko bread crumbs and coconut flakes. Sprinkle salt and pepper in flour. Dredge shrimp in flour, then coconut milk–egg mixture, then panko-coconut mixture. Shake off excess between each dredging.
In sauté pan, warm vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry shrimps in batches, without overcrowding, until golden. Serve warm with apricot dip.
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 scallions, sliced thin
Pinch of red pepper flakes or a few shots of Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups apricot preserves
Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan. Add scallions and red pepper flakes. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until sizzling. Add soy sauce and apricot preserves. Allow to simmer for ten minutes. Serve warm with the coconut shrimp.