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And some excess. (MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP)

February 17, 2011

I have never been to Malaysia. But as the five senses can help recall a strong memory, they can also conjure a fantasy. That is why this dish and all of its toasty coconut, hint of sweet spicy-ness and the way texture of the shrimp pops in your mouth, makes me feel like I am on a beach in deepest Malaysia… eating this creation from a piece of foil with my buttery fingers, leaving a pile of shrimp shells at my feet. Can you hear the waves lapping?

In reality, midwinter Brooklyn, UPS truck grumbling by, this dish is plain tasty. It entails a two-step cooking process that is maybe a little decadent but I think we deserve it. First, shell-on shrimp is fried in oil. This gives the shrimp a bright color and firm bite without drying it out. After making Butter Shrimp several times with students, we realized that for maximum flavor potential, it is nice to then peel the fried shrimp so it gets really doused in the butter sauce that forms in the final steps. And anyway most people prefer not to peel-and-eat, they just want to hurry up and eat. Do what you wish. In keeping with my Malaysian daydream, the shell stays on, but never mind.

MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP

(serves 2-4)

1 lb. jumbo/large shrimp, heads removed
2 cups canola oil, for deep frying
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 small red chilis, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry
1/2 cup grated coconut, toasted

  • Prep the shrimp by making a slit down the back to de-vein. Pat dry.
  • Heat the canola oil in a skillet with high sides or wok. To test that the oil is hot enough, drop a tiny piece of butter into it. If the butter bubbles and sizzles, it’s ready to use.
  • Deep fry the prawns in the oil, do not crowd the pan, until pink and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  • When cool enough to handle remove shells from shrimp, leaving just the tails, if desired.
  • In a clean skillet, melt the butter. Add chilis, scallions, garlic, salt and fry for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add shrimp to the skillet with sugar, soy sauce, wine, and coconut. Cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes until heated through, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.

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