March 1, 2009

Goan style shrimp curry

I can't get enough of Indian food. I love it - the complexity of flavors, the textures, the heat! My introduction to Indian food came in high school, when my good friend Sravanya invited a group of friends to lunch at her house. Her mom is a phenomenal cook who took great joy in introducing us to the flavors and dishes of South India: lemon rice, dals, sambar, homemade yogurt, idlis, and a number of astonishingly delicious and complex vegetable dishes. With such a personal introduction, is it any wonder that South Indian fare is one of my favorite cuisines? In college, I continued to try different kinds of Indian food, eventually discovering that I liked North Indian food almost as well.

Unfortunately, I can't say that I have had many successes with Indian food in my own kitchen. I can't get a handle on the subtle spicing. Almost every dish I make seems to taste exactly the same. The base can be chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, chicken, shrimp, cauliflower, eggplant, or potato and, no matter what, everything tastes annoyingly similar. Yet I want to eat more Indian meals than I can really justify eating out, so I keep plugging along.

The recipe I want to post today is a spicy shrimp curry that I first made about a year ago. I came across this recipe in the New York Times and decided to try it because I recognized the name of the author, Suvir Saran, from a recipe for spiced chicken thighs we made and loved. His delicious chicken thigh recipe convinced me that this recipe would be good as well.

(Just a reminder that you can always click to enlarge. Isn't my hand model stunning?)

The best part of this dish is the spicy, creamy, fragrant and totally addictive sauce, which is a snap to make. Essentially, you saute aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger) with dried chilis and ground spices. To this, you add chopped tomatoes, curry powder, coconut milk, and eventually shrimp. Everything simmers until the shrimp are tender and slightly curled, like big pink apostrophe marks, and then you finish everything with a dusting of cilantro. Doesn't that sound easy and delicious? It takes about a half an hour to put together, which means it takes only slightly longer to make than a pot of basmati rice.

Goan style shrimp curry
by Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur

This is a gem of a recipe, I think, because the sauce is so versatile. Instead of shrimp (which is nice because it cooks so quickly), you could sub chicken or vegetables (the author recommends cauliflower, potatoes, and green beans). If you substitute vegetables, however, I would steam them before adding them to the sauce.

My notes:
  • I like to make my own curry powder but you can certainly use a storebought blend.
  • Start a big pot of basmati rice before you begin prepping the curry.
  • The amount of kosher salt called for was a little too much for me, though Mark thought it was fine. I am not changing the recipe, but use caution if you are sensitive to salt.
  • I added extra cayenne pepper at the end, because I like the pain of a spicy curry.
1 1/3 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
4 dried red chilies
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Place shrimp in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, and add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and refrigerate.

2. In a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine oil and chilies and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cook for 1 minute longer. Add ginger, onion, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt and sauté until onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, ground coriander and turmeric and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomatoes. Stir, scraping sides and bottom of pot, for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.

4. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, and add shrimp. Bring to a simmer and cook until shrimp are opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro. If desired, serve with rice.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

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