The coconut has earned the nickname "Tree of Life" in the the Philippines, where cultural tradition holds that it aids digestion, builds the immune system and prevents heart disease. Shrimp is an excellent source of protein that is low in both calories and saturated fat. When combined, coconut shrimp can be prepared in a variety of ways to result in delicious, nutritional appetizers for guests at any gathering, or just for family snacks that even the kids will enjoy.
Soups and Curries
A Thai-style shrimp curry with coconut milk is an exotic appetizer that can be served on a bed of rice or over some noodles. To add fun flair to this dish for the kids, serve in a takeout-style box, accompanied by wooden chopsticks. Coconut and shrimp are also key ingredients in Thai-style soup, characterized by the tangy flavor of lemongrass and galangal, a type of ginger native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and these flavors meld together in this sweet, spicy soup. Serve in small individual cups with shrimp forks for entertaining, or on the dinner table for the whole family.
Any coconut shrimp appetizer can be turned into a zesty salad when served atop a bed of fresh, crispy romaine leaves. There are a variety of ways to use coconut and shrimp in salads, such as topping a salad of baby greens with coconut shrimp and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Another option is to create a coconut shrimp salad with spicy peanut sauce. Top with grated coconut, either fresh or lightly toasted in the oven. Or make a bright tropical salad with coconut, shrimp, pineapple, onion, mixed greens and creamy dressing.
Deep-Fried or Baked
The most common way to prepare a coconut shrimp appetizer is breaded and deep-fried. Traditionally, the shrimp is coated with a mixture of panko flour and shredded, toasted coconut, then deep-fried in oil. For a healthier alternative to serve the kids as a snack, you can bake the same breaded coconut shrimp in the oven, which will still result in a crispy outer shell but without the added fat and calories from deep-frying. Whether baked or fried, the flavor of the coating can be enhanced by adding a little beer to the batter for entertaining. The alcohol that remains after cooking is negligible, but non-alcoholic beer adds flavor, too.
Deep-fried or baked coconut shrimp are typically served with a dipping sauce of some kind, and options abound. For example, coconut shrimp can be given an exotic twist with a spicy Indian-style fruit chutney. Another quick, easy idea is to combine horseradish, marmalade and mustard for a zesty dip to accompany shrimp. A pineapple-based dipping sauce can bolster a tropical theme and appeals to young tastes, while an obvious choice is to create a dipping sauce using coconut milk. Mango salsa is another tropical dip that complements the flavors of this appetizer. For the salsa, combine mango, cilantro, lime, red onion, tomato, olive oil and ranch-flavored seasoning mix.
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