In my adventures of self-taught cookery, I’ve had my share of recipe success and epic fail. Though there are two cuisines in particular where the guess-we’ll-order-a-pizza end of the scale weighs a little heavier – Asian and Indian. Perhaps because there are so many spices and exotic ingredients involved, the final product can too easily have that Americanized taste to it or be just plain a la Larry David, ‘eh’. But if you’re craving pizza my friends, then skip this dish because this dish is not eh. This dish is spectacular.
It’s actually a blend of Asian and Indian cuisine, as the lemongrass hints at Thailand while the cumin, coriander and fenugreek are Indian ingredients. And best of all, it is not hard to do. Basically you hunt down (this may well be the hardest part depending on where you live), toast and grind a number of spices, saute some shallot, mix together and add coconut milk. And presto you have a very authentic-tasting nicely spiced curry recipe up your sleeve. If you’re not a shellfish person you could swap in chicken or pork, or spoon the sauce over steamed vegetables with rice.
The original recipe called for whole fenugreek seeds, but alas those were the one spice I wasn’t able to find. I did find ground fenugreek and swapped that in. If are fortunate enough to come upon whole fenugreek seeds you can
kindly ship them to me for next time toast and grind them along with the other whole spices and skip the pre-ground stuff, which rarely imparts as much flavor as whole freshly toasted and ground spices do. Remember you can order most anything online if your local grocery store doesn’t an ethnic meal make.
Ever notice or wonder why some recipes call for olive oil and others canola or peanut? Sometimes it has to do with smoke point – the temperature at which the oil burns and begins smoking. Higher smoke points mean you can cook the food at higher temperatures – so for a dish like stir-fry where you want the food cooking quickly at high heat, a higher smoke point oil is optimal. But sometimes it’s just about taste. Olive oil is too fruity and over-powering for most Asian and Indian dishes – the flavor is just off. Which is why canola is the oil of choice here.
As the weather cools down, warm yourself up with this delicious curry and impress a few guests to boot. Buon Appetito!
shrimp curry with coconut milk
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
- 3 dried red chiles, seeded
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 Tbs canola oil
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbs peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup coconut milk (vigorously shaken to blend before opening)
- 1 lemongrass stalk, tender mid-section only, smashed
- 1.5 lb large or jumbo shrimp
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 red chile, sliced (for garnish)
1. Carefully split open the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. In a small dry skillet, combine the cardamom, coriander, cumin, dried chiles and cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat, shaking the pan, to toast the spices, 1-2 minutes, until spices are fragrant and one shade darker. Transfer to a plate to cool.
2. Grind toasted spices in a spice grinder or coffee grinder reserved for grinding spices. Add ground fenugreek and set aside.
3. In a wok or large skillet, warm the oil. Add the shallots and saute 2-3 minutes, until shallots are slightly softened. Add the garlic and ginger and saute 1 minute. Stir in spice powder, coconut milk, 1 cup water and bring to a gentle boil. Add the lemongrass and 1 tsp salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer until curry thickens and nicely coats the back of a spoon, 10-15 minutes. Discard the lemongrass.
4. Stir in the shrimp and lemon juice and simmer until shrimp are opaque throughout, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro and fresh red chili.
Serve with steamed rice and/or snow peas. Serves 4.
Recipe adapted from William Sonona Essentials of Asian Cooking