Shrimp with coconut milk and peppers

(necee regis for the boston globe)
By Necee Regis
March 11, 2009

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Serves 4

Salty fish sauce and the tart notes of lime balance the natural sweetness of the coconut milk in this Thai-style shrimp dish. Heighten licorice-flavored Thai basil by adding whole anise or fennel seeds (or substitute regular fresh basil and the dish will retain a subtle licorice aroma). Coconut milk curdles easily, so simmer the sauce over medium-low heat and don't cover the pan or let it boil. Leave the tails on the fresh shrimp for a more decorative look. Because fish sauce and shrimp lean toward a salty palette, add salt sparingly if at all. Sprinkling with lime juice before serving keeps the flavor from dissipating. Serve over fragrant basmati or jasmine rice.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole anise or fennel seed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 pounds fresh raw shrimp, peeled
Juice of 1 or 2 limes, to taste
Salt, to taste
Handful of Thai basil leaves, torn up
1 lime, cut into wedges (for garnish)
1. In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium flame. Add anise or fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until sizzling.

2. Add the onion and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the onion begins to soften.

3. Add garlic and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes more or until the peppers begin to soften.

4. Stir in sugar, fish sauce, and coconut milk. Bring to a low simmer. Reduce heat (do not let the sauce boil), and simmer, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

5. Add shrimp to the skillet and stir well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp are firm and pink. Turn off the heat. Stir in the juice of 1 lime. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice, if you like, and salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls over basmati or jasmine rice. Garnish with basil leaves and a lime wedge.