Thai-Style Curried Shrimp in Coconut Milk Broth

The outstanding thing about this delicate and tasty curried shrimp dish is that all the ingredients can be from your cupboard or freezer or frig stock, there to put together at a moment’s notice. Fermented fish sauce plays a key role. The Thai version (nam pla) in particular has recently become a darling of Western restaurant chefs, and home cooks can now routinely find it in supermarkets. Serves 2

1/ 3 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes

1 1/ 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (I use my cheese-grating microplane)

1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno chili pepper, preferably red for color, with or without seeds

1/ 4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Fermented fish sauce is a key seasoning throughout Southeast Asia and into China and Japan. Like its vegetarian cousin, soy sauce, a mere teaspoon or so provides flavor depth (umami) that can transport a dish from humdrum to yum! I keep a bottle ready-to-hand in the cupboard; like soy sauce, it will last for years.

1 1/ 2 cups canned, organic unsweetened coconut milk (one 14-ounce can)

2 teaspoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

1  1/4 pounds medium shrimp, shelled, tails intact

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

4 thin scallions, white bottoms and thick green tops trimmed off, scallions cut lengthwise into slivers, for garnish

1. Toast the coconut flakes in an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat, or in a 350 degree F oven, or in a microwave oven until crisp and beginning to turn golden, about 4 minutes for any method. Set aside.

2. Place the oil and coriander seeds in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the seeds begin to sizzle. Add the garlic and cook until beginning to wilt, 1 minute. Stir in the ginger, jalapeno, and cilantro. Add the coconut milk and fish sauce, stir again, and bring to a boil still over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook just until the shrimp are pink and firm, 3 minutes.

3. Stir in the lime juice, garnish with the scallion slivers and toasted coconut, and serve.

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