A toothsome shrimp curry made with a spicy coconut sauce, straight from the land of coconuts and seafood, Kerala. Enjoy this delicious shrimp or prawns curry with rice and your favorite vegetables.
When we were little, eating shrimp or prawns was a treat. There were certain seasons when it was freely available and at certain other times, not so much. One of my most favorite shrimp recipes is this delicious shrimp coconut curry or chemmeen curry as we call it.
(PS: Though there might be slight differences in what are known as shrimp and prawns, I am using the term ‘shrimp’ here and this recipe can be adapted to use either of them.)
There are several kinds of fish curries that we eat. Some use fresh coconut, some are made with coconut milk and some are made with just an unbelievably small number of ingredients without compromising on taste at all. Every fish loving South Indian will have a favorite fish curry. Mine was a red curry made with tomatoes and copious amounts of red chili powder. But when it comes to shrimp, I love a good coconut curry. Soft matta rice, a simple side of stir fried vegetable and a generous helping of this fish curry makes for a wholesome, scrumptious meal. Fish and rice is where it is at!
This recipe makes use of simple, fresh ingredients. Freshly grated coconut, shallots, garlic, ginger, green chilis, plump tomatoes and fresh curry leaves add a ton of flavor. There is a variation of shrimp curry where sour unripe mangoes are used instead of tomatoes. But since mango season is long past, we can use tomatoes and tamarind pulp.
As you know, shrimp cooks super fast, so we will cook the curry paste and reduce it to our liking before adding shrimp. It is best to cook this curry with coconut oil for authenticity, but you can use your favorite cooking oil as well.
You can make this curry as spicy as you like as well. Adding more chili powder would give the sauce a more reddish color, but I like the flavors to be subtle and melded together instead of fiery hot. Seafood curry is always better the next day when the flavors have had time to develop and mature. So make a big batch!
- Coconut - ½ cup, freshly grated
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - 2 tsp
- Coriander powder - 3½ tsp
- Coconut oil - 2 tsp
- Shallots - 2 tbsp, sliced
- Ginger - 1" piece, julienned
- Garlic - 3-4 cloves, sliced
- Green chilies - 3
- Curry leaves - a sprig
- Coconut paste - the above quantity
- Tomato - 1 large, sliced into half moons
- Tamarind - a lime-sized ball dissolved in 1 cup of water
- Water - 1.5 cups
- Shrimp - 1 lb, peeled and deveined
- Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
- Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
- Fenugreek seeds - 3-4
- Shallots - 1 tbsp, thinly sliced
- Curry leaves - 3-4, torn
- Blend the coconut curry paste with a little bit of water till smooth. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 2 tsp oil in an earthen ware pot (or other deep pan). Add shallots, ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves. Saute till lightly browned and fragrant.
- Add the coconut curry paste, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomato and cook till softened, 3-4 minutes.
- Then add the tamarind water and plain water and boil for 5 minutes till lightly thickened.
- Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes.
- In a small pan, heat the oil for tempering. Add the other tempering ingredients. Turn off the heat when mustard seeds crackle and shallots are golden in color. Add to the shrimp coconut curry and mix well.
- Keep curry covered for half an hour before serving. The curry will thicken as it sits for a while as well.
- Serve with rice, rotis or other Indian flatbreads like dosas, appalls, idiyappams, etc.
2. You can make this curry with pieces of other fish.
3. Use slices of sour mango instead of tomato and tamarind if you can find it. The mango has to be green, unripe and very sour to add the necessary tangy flavor to the curry.
My mom adds slices of unripe/green plantains and cooks them before adding the shrimp. Believe it or not, this is a delicious combo.
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What is your favorite fish curry? Have you ever tried shrimp curry made this way? Do truths recipe and let me know how you like it.
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