Except ... enough people consider them not to be to create a loophole I will exploit. And Sandy agrees enough to allow us seafood while abstaining from meat during Lent. It's getting towards the end, I miss meat more than just about anything (I've told Sandy I want cheeseburgers, not jelly beans in my Easter basket), so I've been trying to check out some different Trader Joe seafood stuffs. When we went shopping on Monday, I definitely felt too strong an urge to not leave the store without something that used to have a face. Shrimp has always been my far-and-away favorite ocean animal to chomp on down on, so spotting this battered tasty-looking Coconut Shrimp required little to no thought.
Well, it's not bad, but it's definitely a little weird/not quite what we expected it to be. We've had coconut-battered shrimp before, and it's always been the shaved coconut mixed in with the breadcrumbs variety. The Trader Joe's tastes like coconut milk was either used as a base for the batter, or that the shrimpy guys were heavily saturated with it prior to crumbing it up. The result of this is this interesting mix of textures ... the fleshy-ness of the shrimp, the creaminess of the milk, and the crispy greasiness of the batter. It's definitely strange, especially the first bite when it's not expected. I didn't mind it too much, but Sandy was a little put off by it. But the taste itself is fairly gratifying. I've come to really enjoy things like rice prepared with coconut milk (coincidentally our side dish last night, with the mango-from-the-picture's cousin chopped up and mixed in) as it adds this creamy, slightly sweet, kinda ethereal dimension of flavor. The coconut with the shrimp did much of the same .... decently good, though when mingled with the batter I found myself wondering if the whole combination was the best idea. I thought the shrimp itself was good, not great. Each one was about a bite-and-a-half sized, definitely fresh and clean tasting, and not too salty/mushy/gritty like I've tasted with other store brands at other places. Sandy said she had one that tasted pretty fishy to her, though. I didn't notice that for any of mine, but the fact that she let me finish her allotment up told me she wasn't the biggest fan. I was so hungry for anything resembling meat I plowed them all down (mostly because I doubted they'd be any better reheated), and I think I managed to eat a tail or two by mistake. Yuck.
I can see us giving these a try again sometime to see if we like them any better then, now that we know a little more what to expect. Still, for now, Sandy could muster up giving them only a 2 because of the oddball texture and fishy tidbit. I'll grade them a little higher, but pantheon-bound these are not. The milky/creamy thing docks them down a little, not just because of the texture but also because it made the batter not stick to the shrimp as well as it should have, causing some half-naked pieces and extra scrubbing for the baking sheet. Also, I appreciated the product overall, but just wasn't left with enough of a glowing impression to recommend them too highly. I found myself enjoying the rice side dish more than my shrimp ration, and if you had any idea how much rice we've eaten recently ... Sounds like a 3.5 from me, though I'd totally get if you think we rated these too low.
Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
*I think some (not all) of my vegetarian friends ascribe to the theory that it is okay to only eat animals that cannot be considered cute and/or cuddly. I've heard people describe pigs, cows, and even chickens (though they are nasty little birds) as such, but never heard of anyone wanting to cuddle up with a fish or lobster or crab. So perhaps that's an argument for being cool with eating meat that swims. Hey, whatever works.