Tuesday, April 24

Shrimp Ginataan (Coconut Milk) "Curry"

My beautiful friend Lourdes is Filipina, and shared a photo of her dinner one evening, several years ago. I told her that it looked delicious, and I needed the recipe. She delivered it, and I FINALLY tried my hand at making it this week. It turned out really well (at least Hubs and I thought so). Warm, creamy coconut milk with plump shrimp and vegetables, served over hot rice. I'm going to go down a short rabbit trail here and address this fact: Yes, we had rice! For the first time since January! and so far, so good. It won't be a regular thing, but once in a while you just have to have a dish properly. Certain dishes, particularly of the Asian variety, just need to be served on a bed of hot rice!

We boxed this up hot in our glass Snapware and headed to the park for a lunch picnic!

Ok, back to the dish. I did a little bit of research and found that "Ginataan" mean "coconut" in Filipino culture, but not specific to a certain type of dish. It can refer to this kind of savory meal, or to a coconut dessert. I amcalling this a "curry" even though it is not very spicy. If you are inspired with a more fitting name, please share it with me :)

Shrimp Ginataan Curry

Adapted from this original recipe

What you need:
1/2 pound raw shrimp (can be frozen)*
1 onion, sliced thin
2-3 inch knob ginger, peeled, diced and minced
1 cup water or chicken bone broth
1 bag frozen squash cubes OR about 4 cups raw squash peeled and diced
1/4 of one yellow bell pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 TB "bagoong" shrimp paste** (find at Asian market)
1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk, free of preservatives and binders (I love Taste Nirvana brand)
1/2 cup canned coconut cream
dash of salt


*Peeling shrimp is easy, but deveining (removing the black line of ... um... "shrimp waste" along the back) takes a bit of time and patience. For this reason I suggest buying the kind that is deveined already. I also recommend buying frozen shrimp, especially if you can find a sustainably fished option, because they will keep in your freezer until you're ready to cook with them.

**I could only find bagoong that had corn oil and MSG in the ingredients list. If we plan to make this dish a lot in the future, I plan to try and make my own shrimp/fish paste with more natural ingredients. Here is a link I found to do just that with anchovies: How to Cook Bagoong (Coincidentally, the jar of factory-made bagoong pictured there is the same one I have in my refrigerator!)


What you do:
The way to make Asian cooking easy is to prepare your ingredients first. Then when your pan is hot and you're working on a quick schedule, you can just grab what you need and toss it in, no hiccups in the process.


Prep:
Measure out 1/2 pound of frozen shrimp into a strainer. Set inside a larger bowl and pour cool water over the strainer. Shrimp will start to thaw; while it softens, peel shells and remove tails. By the time you're done, they will probably be ready to use. Leave shrimp in water bowl and set aside.
If using frozen squash cubes, remove bag from freezer. If using raw, I suggest buying the pre-peeled and cubed butternut squash in the store (these are seasonal, but recently Trader Joe's has small bags next to the refrigerated greens and Costco has large containers in the cooler).
Peel and slice onion and mince ginger. Wash bell pepper and dice.

Cook:
Put a shallow, wide saute pan or wok over medium-low to medium heat (depending on your pan metal's conductiveness). Drop in a spoonful of coconut oil and let it melt and spread around.
Saute onions for several minutes, then add ginger. Cook together until onions are starting to turn translucent.
Add squash, water/broth, shrimp paste and coconut milk. Stir
Turn up burner as needed to bring to a simmer, and cook 10 to 15 minutes until liquid is reduced and squash is tender. (If using frozen squash, you may choose to wait to add until liquid has started to reduce, because it will become overly mushy.)
Now add coconut cream and peppers; stir around, then add shrimp, gently placing each piece into pan. Watch the shrimp closely, it will only take a couple minutes for it turn to pink underneath. Flip each shrimp and cook one or two more minutes, until each piece is pink/white and firm. Give the pan a final stir-around, and you're done!

If you eat rice, start a pot of short grain white or Jasmine rice before you begin preparing your ingredients. It will be ready at the same time you finish cooking the Ginataan curry.

Voila! A beautiful Filipino dish full of creamy flavor and fresh ingredients.

Notes:
Lourdes recommends adding any favorite seasonal vegetable in this dish; she loves to include eggplant and string beans. I would have included massive amounts of garlic, but I am allergic. The original recipe also calls for tomato, but if you are avoiding nightshades it is good to leave it out.