Matai’s Island…The recipe

Grilled coconut rum shrimp with pineapple glaze, pina colada dipping sauce, and Shanghai noodle salad

In Samoan tradition, Matai is Father, Elder, and Leader of an island. My friend Matai Aleki lived up to all of those labels. He lives the Aloha (Talofa was his word for it) and loves sharing, especially with those he knows carry the Talofa in their hearts. When I created this dish for a party organized to honor him, I took his love of symbs and his islands and used shrimp which symbolize Mother Oceans’ bounty, coconut for the sweet produce of the island, and of course pineapple which has long been an international symbol of welcome and hospitality and not coincidentally his favorite taste. This is another dish that fits everywhere from picnic to swanky cocktail party (or Aso fiafia as Aleki would say). The subtlety of the rum truly adds a smoothness, and rounds out some of the flavors while accentuating others. The recipe calls for grilling mainly because, rum in hand of course, it’s more fun that way. But it also imparts a certain taste and texture you cannot easily reproduce in an oven or fry pan.                  

Suggested Listening… This song just fits Matai Aleki


2 pounds large shrimp  (peeled and deveined)

13.5 ounce can coconut milk 

1/2 cup light brown sugar

 1/4 cup dark rum

 2 tablespoons lime juice

Pina Colada Sauce

1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice 

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/4 cup finely chopped jalapenos 

2 teaspoons minced garlic 

1 tablespoon cider vinegar 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

6 sprigs cilantro 

1 tablespoon cornstarch 


Shanghai noodle salad

1 pound fresh thick Chinese wheat noodles

1/4 cup ketchup

3 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice.                                     

1/4 cup chopped green onion

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks

1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.                     

Instead of chili flakes, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of chili paste to the whisked dressing ingredients.


In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, brown sugar, rum, and lime juice. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. 

Set aside half of mixture for the glaze. 

Add shrimp to remaining mixture still in the bowl. Gently coat all shrimp with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

While shrimp is marinating, make your glaze by placing reserved mixture in a small saucepan over 

low-medium heat. Bring to a simmer and while stirring constantly, allow mixture to thicken slightly, reduced to about 1/2 – 1/3 cup. Remove immediately from heat. 

Remove shrimp from refrigerator and thread onto metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water. Discard any remaining marinade. 

Grill shrimp over medium heat, about 2 minutes per side or until shrimp have turned pink. 

Remove from grill and brush shrimp with glaze. Turn skewers over and brush the other side with glaze.

Dipping Sauce

In a food processor or blender, blend together pineapple juice, granulated sugar, jalapenos, garlic, vinegar, salt, and cilantro until smooth

Pour mixture into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium for 5 minutes. 

While simmering, mix together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons pineapple juice in a small bowl until smooth. 

With a whisk, gradually blend in cornstarch mixture into pineapple juice mixture, which will thicken your mixture. Remove from heat. Cool and serve as a dipping sauce.

Shanghai Noodle Salad

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.

Stir in the Chinese noodles, and return to a boil.

Cook the noodles uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they have cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Drain well in a colander set in the sink. Rinse the noodles with cold water several times to chill, then drain again.

In a large salad bowl, whisk together the ketchup, sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, kosher salt, and lime juice until the brown sugar has dissolved.

Place the noodles, green onion, carrots, zucchini, red pepper, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes into the bowl, and gently toss to thoroughly mix the salad and coat with dressing.

Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Matai’s council

2 Comments Add yours

  1. CarolCooks2 says:

    This sounds delicious have Bm to make when we next fire up the BBQ…:)


    1. You’ll love the shrimp. I also have a recipe for guava dipping sauce you might like! Thanks again for the support.


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