In my kitchen, there are a handful of Asian ingredients that I’m never out of. There’s the usual like soy sauce, oyster sauce and ginger, of course. But, there’s the other category of foods that are so versatile, they can be used in any style of cooking, whether Asian, Italian or Greek.
And at the top of that list is panko bread crumbs. Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb that really shouldn’t be named “crumb” but rather bread “flakes.” It’s incredibly light, airy and crisp/crunchy when fried.
What I like about panko is that it doesn’t absorb as much oil or grease as regular breadcrumbs and its super-thin flakes create an airy, lacy coating that you can’t achieve with regular breadcrumbs.
Making crab cakes? Use panko for a lighter, delicate result. Baked fried chicken is ten times crisper with a panko coating.
In this recipe, the coconut shrimp is coated in flour, egg/coconut milk and then a panko/coconut flake mixture.
Do you know why we have to coat the shrimp in all of those ingredients, in exactly that order? Well let’s work backwards. If you want a crunchy coating, whether it’s panko, breadcrumbs, crushed potato chips or crushed saltines – you gotta get it to stick to the food. Try taking a naked shrimp and patting panko on the surface. It doesn’t stick well. If you try to fry it, all the coating will come off into the oil.
But guess what? Panko sticks to egg!
So does egg stick to shrimp? Nope. It slides right off.
And hey, egg sticks to flour! Flour sticks to shrimp!
Now you get it?
Coconut Shrimp With Sweet Chili Mayo
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili-garlic hot sauce (optional)
- 1 pound tail-on shrimp, shelled but leave tail on
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk (or regular milk)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- Oil, for frying
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce and the chili-garlic hot sauce (optional). Set aside.
With a paring knife, slice down deep at the middle of the back of the shrimp, but do not cut all the way through. Discard the black vein/tract.
Set three shallow bowls side by side. Place flour in the first bowl; whisk the egg and coconut milk in the second; and combine the panko and coconut flakes in the third.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a sauté pan over moderate heat until thermometer registers 350°F.
As the oil is heating, bread the shrimp by dipping the shrimp on both sides in the flour and shaking excess off. Next dip in the egg/coconut milk mixture and then in the panko/coconut flakes, patting to ensure the coating sticks well.
Fry the shrimp in small batches for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on both sides. Serve with Sweet Chili Mayo for dipping.