June 11, 2011

Spicy Shrimp Curry with Coconut Sauce

I recently wrote about a spice mix typical to Bengali cooking, panch phoron, and the dish I made using that spice mix.   I served that really excellent vegetable dish along with a shrimp curry, and that curry is the topic of today's post.

I designed this recipe to make a somewhat spicier curry, yet at the same time I wanted it to taste of more than the spicy gravy.  Thus, I decided to let the shrimp marinate with some spices and a bit of lemon juice before frying it.   I then fried some onions along with ample amounts of fresh chili peppers, ginger and more spices before adding tomatoes and coconut milk to make a gravy.   I added curry leaves - a distinctly Indian seasoning ingredient - to this gravy to give it another layer of distinctly Indian flavors.

The result was a fragrant, spicy dish with a complex mix of flavors.  The coconut milk didn't so much mellow the spiciness in this one as it served to balance it out.    Still, this one has a fair bit of bite, and the curry leaves provide an exotic flavor that will probably be unfamiliar - though not unpleasant - to those not well-versed in Indian curries. 

Curry leaves can be hard to find, and I really don't know of anything else that might take their place.  Juli's sister wrote us a comment awhile back about encountering a curry plant at a plant market sometime back, but I've never found curry leaves outside Indian (or extremely well-stocked Asian) groceries.   They're worth seeking out, though, as there really isn't anything else with the same flavor.   I buy batches of leaves a couple times a year and freeze most of them for later use.  Curry leaves lose only a tiny bit of flavor when frozen, but frozen ones still do the trick just fine. 

Spicy Shrimp Curry with Coconut Sauce

yield = 4 servings

1 1/2            pounds raw large shrimp, peeled
                      and deveined
1                  teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1                  teaspoon ground cumin
1                  teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2               teaspoon table salt
1/2               teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3                  tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1                  small white onion, finely chopped
3                  serrano chlis, seeded and minced
2                  tablespoons fresh, peeled and grated ginger
2                  teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2            teaspoon cumin seed
1                  can (14-15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1                  can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
5                  curry leaves

Add the shrimp, lemon juice, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix thoroughly and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the shrimp.  Fry the shrimp for 2 minutes, then turn the shrimp and cook another 2 minutes.  Transfer the cooked shrimp to a clean bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add the chopped onion and minced chilis and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown (about 7 minutes). 

Add the ginger, garlic and cumin seed and cook about 1 minute, then stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have softened (about 5 minutes).  If the mixture in the skillet starts to burn, add a tablespoon or so of water. 

When the tomatoes have softened, add and stir in the coconut milk and curry leaves.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the gravy thickens (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the shrimp, cook to heat through, then transfer to a serving bowl or platter and serve. 

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