A recent trip to Hawaii led me to the best coconut shrimp of my life. I was dubious about the meal going in, as the Holoholo Grill sits inside a hotel. I find that usually hotel restaurants don’t bring A-game food, just A-game prices. But, the place came recommended, and we were looking to get away from our own hotel for a bit, so we had headed over one night for dinner. Insert cliche “boy, are we sure glad we did.” The coconut shrimp on the menu were crispy, crunchy, perfectly breaded. They came with a lilikoi (passion fruit) aioli that added sweet brightness to the battered shrimp. In the dead of winter, I needed to recreate these to transport me back.
Figuring out the batter for these Paleo coconut shrimp took a little work. I wanted the coconut flakes to shine through, but wanted to replicate a certain amount of the crunchy shell in the original, which was no doubt full of some sort of grain-based flour. Coconut flakes take center stage, and almond flour provides some substance while cassava flour helps things crisp up nicely. Added in some garlic powder and ginger, and I knew the islands would be calling once I fried these up. I pulled some of the sweetness into the egg wash by adding some coconut sugar (you can omit if you are on a whole30).
In recreating these Paleo coconut shrimp, I knew it would be hard to get the dipping sauce right. Passion fruit is tart (and delicious) but I had no doubt that sugar crept it’s way into that ailoi to counteract that. Here, I’ve opted for pineapple juice – which balances sweet and tart perfectly. I also added some curry powder, because I find the yellow curry adds a fun new dimension. You can make the dipping sauce either way – with or without the curry.
I’ll make a plug here to use shrimp farmed or caught in the United States when making these Paleo coconut shrimp. While many of us are concerned with where our meat comes from, we sometimes forget to apply this same level of rigor to our seafood. Aquaculture practices in other parts to the world can be pretty suspect. Many producers use intense antibiotics, harmful chemicals, and questionable food sources (they say you are what what you eat eats after all!) to raise these shrimp. The FDA inspects very little of this imported seafood for whatever reason. Imports have been known to have traces of these chemicals, antibiotics, and bacteria like salmonella present. Farmed shrimp (of course wild caught is great too, but let’s be realistic!) in the US is held to higher standards, and I just feel strongly enough about this to include it here so there you have it!
I’m not saying things are perfect over here by any stretch, just that it’s a better choice when it comes to farmed seafood. There are also some good farmed options from Europe.
Yields 4 as an appetizer portion. Yields 2 main course sized portions.
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (please, please devein them or ask your provider to!). I like the U16/20 size
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup cassava flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
For the aioli:
- 1/3 cup Paleo mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons pineapple juice
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
- Whisk egg, 1 teaspoon water, and coconut sugar together in a bowl
- In a shallow bowl, evenly combine the dry ingredients – coconut flakes, almond and cassava flours, garlic powder, ground ginger and salt
- Dip the shrimp in the egg mixture with one hand, then drop it in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Coat well and set aside. Repeat with all remaining shrimp
- In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 1/2 cup coconut oil over medium high heat until hot
- Add shrimp to the pan (you may need to do 2 batches), cooking 2-3 minutes per side, until browned. Set on paper towel-lined plate to briefly cool and drain.
- Mix the ailoi ingredients together
- Serve immediately and enjoy!