Coconut Curry Shrimp  Recipe
Coconut Curry Shrimp

By Wolfgang Puck

The Secret to Cool, Creamy Curries

When many people in the Western world hear the word curry, they instantly think of something that's hot and spicy. And, yes, some curries, especially the notorious vindaloo-style recipes from northern India, can be breathtakingly intense.

But, in truth, many curries, among my favorites, are those that are beautifully balanced stews or sautes, combining hot and mild, sweet and pungent seasonings to provide very pleasing, well-rounded experiences. Most, like the recipe I share with you here for Coconut Curry Shrimp, don't even require bravery to eat them. It's a perfect example of a harmonious curry that features something to please everyone.

The secret to its mild but full flavor is coconut milk, which provides a rich, creamy, soothing background for all the other flavors. Joining it are pungent and biting garlic, ginger, and green onion; a medley of fresh citrus juices plus tangy lemongrass (look for it fresh in ethnic markets or well-stocked food stores, or substitute some lemon zest); and jam-like, tart tamarind paste (you'll find it in the market among other Indian, Asian, or Latin ingredients; or you can substitute more lime juice). Chopped apple and banana simmering in the sauce add their own fruity sweetness.

And don't forget the curry powder, of course. My recipe calls for a mild version of this classic blend of Indian spices, but you could substitute medium or hot curry powder if you prefer. Whichever you use, buy your curry powder in small containers, as it loses its punch over several months after opening.

Canned coconut milk is widely sold in well-stocked supermarkets and specialty foods stores; be sure to buy the unsweetened kind rather than syrupy coconut milk sold as a bar drinks ingredient. And don't confuse coconut milk with the thin liquid you find sloshing around inside whole coconuts, which many people call "milk" but is technically coconut "water." True coconut milk is an extract made by grinding up the coconut's flesh with fresh water, letting it steep for several hours, and then straining the mixture. Be sure to shake the cans of coconut milk well before you open them, because their thick cream separates and forms a layer at the top of the can during storage.

Once you taste the wonderful flavor of coconut milk, you'll want to keep using it to make more delicious curries. But the possibilities don't stop there. Pick up a few extra cans and try the recipe I also offer here for a Coconut-Honey Granita. If you've chosen to make your curry spicy, it's the perfect dessert to cool off and soothe any heat still lingering on your palate.

Coconut Curry Shrimp Recipe

Serves 4

1/4 cup peanut oil

12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons chopped organic green onion

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, chopped, or grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1/2 organic green apple, cored and coarsely chopped

1 ripe banana, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons curry powder, mild or spicy as you prefer

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 lime, juiced

1/2 orange, juiced

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

2-1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons torn Thai basil leaves, or regular basil leaves

2 kaffir lime leaves, or 2 long strips lime zest

Steamed rice, for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the peanut oil over high heat. When the oil is hot enough to swirl easily and starting to turn fragrant, add the shrimp and quickly saute, stirring continuously, just until they start to turn pink but are not yet cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Reduce the heat slightly, add the garlic, ginger, green onion, lemongrass or lemon zest, apple, and banana to the pan, and saute, stirring continuously, until they start to turn soft but have not yet colored, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cumin and curry powder and saute, stirring, 1 minute longer. Add the lemon, lime, and orange juices along with the tamarind paste, coconut milk, and cilantro. Raise the heat, bring to a boil, and then adjust the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Strain the sauce and return to the heat. Stir in the basil and kaffir lime leaves. Return the shrimp to the pan and cook until just heated through and thoroughly cooked, about 3 minutes longer. Spoon some rice onto each serving plate. Place 3 shrimp on top of each plate and spoon the sauce over and around the shrimp and rice.

Coconut-Honey Granita Recipe

Serves 4

1 cup low-fat milk

3/4 cup honey, plus extra as needed

1-1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

Put the milk and honey in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the honey has dissolved completely in the milk. Stir in the coconut milk. Taste the mixture and, 1 tablespoon at a time, stir in more honey as needed until the mixture tastes just a little bit sweeter than you like.

Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch stainless-steel baking pan and put the pan in the freezer. When ice crystals begin to form -- in about 30 minutes to about 1 hour, depending on your freezer -- remove the pan and, with the tines of 2 forks, scrape up the crystals evenly. Return the pan to the freezer and repeat the process every 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the mixture is frozen completely, with an icy, granular texture. If not serving immediately, transfer to an airtight freezer container.

Before serving, scrape up the crystals again. Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to transfer to individual chilled serving dishes.

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