Amp up the flavor of shrimp and grits with the fermented flavor of shrimp paste in this spicy shrimp with coconut milk grits.
What is Shrimp Paste?
Before we get into this incredible spicy shrimp and coconut milk grits recipe, let’s talk about shrimp paste. It’s a new-to-me ingredient, it’s certainly not new in Southeast Asian cuisine. This fermented paste has been used in Thai cuisine for hundreds of years, as far back as the 8th century.
The origin of shrimp paste points to the southern territory of Thailand, though it was shared between a range of Southeast Asian regions. These regions include what is now known as Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and others. Nowadays, these regions have versions of shrimp paste with slight tweaks unique to the region it was developed.
Varieties of Shrimp Paste:
If you take a stroll through an Asian market, you’ll find a variety of shrimp pastes to choose from, including paste or liquid form or even solid blocks.
Kapi is the Thai version and is a foundational ingredient in many Thai recipes, including nam prik. In southern Thailand, there are a few varieties of shrimp paste, one of which is photographed above.
Shrimp Paste with Soy Bean Oil is extra flavorful because it’s made from chopped shrimp heads which contain the hepatopancreas and, therein, an extra buttery, flavorful substance. In addition, this paste also contains chopped shrimp meat, garlic, white pepper, and fish sauce. Effectively, if you’re looking for the most intense flavor, this is a great place to start. Like fish sauce, the aroma is really strong but once it’s cooked into the dish, the flavor is unimaginably savory and delicious.
There are other varieties, including Bagoong alamang from the Philippines which is a chunkier, less processed version of shrimp paste. Belacan is from Malaysia and is typically sold as a block. Mắm tôm is a Vietnamese variety which is used as a foundation for a dipping sauce in Vietnamese cuisine.
How to Make Spicy Shrimp with Coconut Milk Grits:
Finally, let’s move on to the main attraction of this post! The Spicy Shrimp with Coconut Milk Grits. Load up on flavor with this unbelievably easy shrimp and grits recipe.
To start, prepare the grits by combining chicken stock with coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Stir in the corn grits and simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender. Season with salt and white pepper and keep warm.
Next, prepare the shrimp. Mix shrimp paste with 3 tablespoons of water and set aside. Cook the mushrooms – shiitake and oyster – until well-browned. Add the shrimp and cook until almost cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.
Finally, add the aromatics – shallot, garlic, and red chili pepper – and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Pour in the shrimp mixture and bring to a boil. Add stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Want a thicker sauce? Make a slurry with cornstarch and the broth and add it to the pan and let it simmer until thickened. Lastly, add the shrimp and mushrooms to the dish and cook briefly until the shrimp finish cooking. Take the pan off the flame and serve it up.
I serve this dish over the coconut grits, though rice or rice noodles would suffice as well. Garnish with cilantro leaves and toasted coconut flakes, if you like.
The result is an unbelievable combination of sweet, salty, creamy, and spicy. Best of all…it only takes about 40 minutes to prepare.
Looking for more shrimp recipes? Check my archives!
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Spicy Shrimp and Coconut Milk Grits
- Skillet or wok
- Medium pot
Coconut Milk Grits:
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 15 ounce can coconut milk
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil for frying
- 3 ounces shiitake mushroom caps thinly sliced
- 3 ounces oyster mushrooms torn
- 1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 red Fresno chili pepper trimmed and thinly sliced; or use 2 Thai chili peppers)
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Chili oil optional
- Toasted coconut flakes
Prepare the Coconut Milk Grits:
- Combine the coconut milk and coconut milk in a medium pot on the stove and bring to a very low boil. Stir in the grits and whisk until they are no longer clumpy.
- Reduce heat to low and whisk occasionally for 20-30 minutes until the grits are tender and thickened. If they thicken up too much, add a splash or two more of milk.
- Stir in the the butter and whisk until incorporated. Season with salt and white pepper and keep warm.
Cook the Mushrooms:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
- If the skillet is dry, add another teaspoon of oil and turn the heat to medium. Pat the shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper. Add to the hot skillet and arrange in an even layer. Cook for 2 minutes and then flip and cook another minute. Don't allow the shrimp to cook completely through. Transfer them to the bowl of mushrooms.
Cook the Aromatics:
- Add the shallot, garlic, and red Fresno pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Mix together the shrimp paste with 3 tablespoons of water and stir until combined. Pour into the skillet. Once bubbly, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon brown sugar.
- If desired, scoop out a few tablespoons of the broth and combine it with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and stir until completely combined into a slurry and pour it into the broth and turn the heat to a very low boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened.
Cook the Shrimp and Mushrooms:
- Stir in the shrimp and mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. Turn off the heat.
- Divide the grits between bowls and pile the spicy shrimp on top. Garnish with toasted coconut flakes, a drizzle of chili oil, and a few cilantro leaves. Enjoy!