With international travel still being potentially a ways away, at the moment it seems like the most accessible tropical destination for those of us with U.S. passports is the beautiful state of Hawai’i. It feels like at any given time, someone I follow on Instagram is there and, of course, the thing I am most jealous about is the FOOD! The famous garlic shrimp trucks right along the water (the last one I visited in the before times was Geste Shrimp on Maui) are life changing, in my opinion! Still determined to travel virtually through food as much as I can right now, I whipped up a batch of my own version of those super buttery, garlic-loaded shrimp.
I have tried emulating those Hawaiian shrimp trucks before, but this time around, I decided to give it a slightly spicy, Southeast Asian-inspired twist. I seasoned the garlic butter with Spice Tribe’s Thai-inspired Long-Tail Sunset spice blend, which is made up of coconut, ginger, tamarind, Thai chili, coriander, cumin, and lemongrass. For a seasoned spicy-eater, I find this blend to taste more spiced than spicy from the chili, and overall there is a lovely tangy tropical flavor. It definitely gives the dish some nice flavor complexity, but with minimal extra effort. If you like spicy, garnishing the shrimp with fresh Thai chilies will more than make up for it!
You gotta have rice to capture all the extra butter and garlic, and since this tropical shrimp goes perfectly with my coconut rice, I went ahead and included it in this recipe. Coconut rice is the foundation of nasi lemak, the (unofficial) national dish of my parents’ home country of Malaysia, but I have found that it is so good with so many other things—pretty much anything with Southeast Asian flavors. (If you want a way to visually wow people with a super simple staple recipe, you can also learn how to make a blue version of my coconut rice using butterfly pea blossoms here.) I also opted to include cucumber as a suggested accompaniment to this recipe because it is a common accoutrement in nasi lemak. If you are wondering how I made those cucumber roses, I simply used a vegetable peeler to make thin cucumber “ribbons”, stacked 2–3 together, and rolled them up.
Step 1 -
To make the coconut rice, mix the jasmine rice, coconut milk, water, and salt in the pot of a rice cooker and cook as normal. When rice is done cooking, immediately fold together gently, and then cover and let rest until serving.
Step 2 -
Combine potato starch and salt in a shallow bowl. Pat shrimp dry and toss to coat thoroughly in the potato starch mixture. Dust off the excess potato starch.
Step 3 -
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil on medium-high. Add shrimp in a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes, or until color becomes vibrant, then flip, add extra oil if needed, and cook for the same time on the other side. Turn off the heat and transfer shrimp out of the skillet.
Step 4 -
To the same skillet with the heat off, add butter and garlic. Set heat on low and stir with a spatula as the butter melts. Keep stirring to evenly and gently fry the garlic and infuse the butter. When the butter is melted and becomes completely foamy, add the Spice Tribe Long-Tail Sunset blend. Keep cooking and stirring until the garlic becomes golden brown, about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and add the fish sauce. Stir to combine, then add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Step 5 -
Divide coconut rice onto plates and top with shrimp. Sprinkle cilantro leaves and Thai chilies (if using) over the shrimp. Serve with lime wedges and cucumber.
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