Coconut Caramel Shrimp
3 to 4 servings
Adapted from Vietnamese Food Any Day by Andrea NguyenThis recipe makes enough for a modest main course. I noted it served 3 to 4 and I’d say that number is closer to three, unless you are serving a few other things with it. I served it with rice to which I added a handful of finely chopped broccoli to the pot during the last few minutes of cooking, then stirred it into the rice when it was finished.Coconut water differs from coconut milk. The former is the water found inside fresh coconuts; coconut milk is the water blended with the coconut meat, and is white and creamy. But sure to use coconut water, which can be found in supermarkets or natural foods stores.I recommend keeping some extra coconut water handy and using it when the shrimp are finished cooking, in step #5, in case you want to loosen up (and use) any very thick sauce that’s sticking in the pan.
1 1/4 pounds (570g) large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 cups (375ml) coconut water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon caramel (see note, below), or light molasses or sorghum syrup
1 3/4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced (but not too thin)
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 scallions, just the green parts, thinly sliced
freshly-ground black pepper
1. Pat the shrimp gently with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut water, sugar, caramel, and fish sauce until well-combined. (Andrea recommends tasting it to make sure it has a nice balance of sugar and fish sauce. If necessary, add a little more of either.)
3. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet with the shallots and garlic over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic, stirring frequently, until they’re translucent. Turn off heat and let cool a few minutes.
4. Add the coconut water to the skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high until the coconut water starts to boil. Let the mixture reduce at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary so it stays there, until it’s reduced to about 1/2 cup (125ml). It will take 10 to 12 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce is reduced to a loose, yet thickened syrup. If you think the shrimp are cooking too fast before the sauce is properly reduced, you can remove them with a slotted spoon, let the sauce reduce, then add them back.
5. Turn off the heat and stir in the scallions as well as a good amount of black pepper. Let the mixture sit for a minute or so before serving, stirring the shrimp so it gets coated in the sauce. If the juices get too thick, you can dribble in a little more coconut water to loosen things up.

Serving: The coconut caramel shrimp can be served with cooked rice. To make it a more complete meal, you can serve it along with some sautéed vegetables, as well.

Note: For the caramel sauce, Andrea’s recipe calls for cooking 2 tablespoons of water and 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar with a few drops of vinegar in a skillet until it turns a deep amber color. Remove the pan from heat and add 1/4 cup (60ml) of water, which may bubble up (so be careful). Stir until smooth. Use 1 tablespoon of the caramel for this recipe. (The rest can be stored in the refrigerator, to use when you make it again.) For details on caramelizing sugar, check out my post <a href=”https://www.davidlebovitz.com/how-to-make-the/”>How to make the perfect caramel</a>.