In India, on the western coast along the Arabian Sea, lies the city of Mangalore, with it’s ancient traditional cuisine of creamy spicy coconut sauces. I have very strong memories of watching cooks from that region, working as chefs in Los Angeles, throw whole mustard seeds into woks of smoking oils, seeing them pop and sizzle along with curry leaves tossed in and blackening, infusing the oil with powerful flavors. South of Mangalore is the state of Kerala, and all along the coast this Malabar Shrimp is a very popular street food and one of the local home cooks’ favorite meals. The proximity of the ocean with its fresh fish and seafood along with the spiciness from the pungent curry leaves and chilies highlight this traditional dish… and it’s beautiful to look at as well, because this little feast also has an amazing shimmering deep red color from the tamarind.
The cuisine subtlety changes further north of Mangalore along the Goa coast, with it’s dizzyingly exotic mash up of local coconuts, spices, fruity tamarind and creamy sauces which combine with the traditions and cuisine brought by the Portuguese, who ruled this land for centuries. The Catholics of Goa make an amazing umami bomb called Pork Vindaloo which is served at most family feasts. (We will be posting our version soon, we call ours Vindaloo Voodoo Pork.) It is a wonderful example of how the cuisine of the Portuguese Catholics added to the melting pot of the local spices and coconut based cuisine of the Hindu people of Goa… coming together to make a unique and wonderfully exotic experience for the senses.
If you buy the shrimp with shells on, you can prepare them as the Indian home cooks do, by removing and boiling down the shells in order to get a very intense rich aromatic broth… it adds great intensity of flavor.
1 pound peeled shrimp
3 medium tomatoes, or 6 to 8 small, chopped into quarters
1 large sweet onion, very finely diced
1/2 cup grated coconut, unsweetened
1/2 cup of rich broth (shrimp shells, clam, seafood, fish or chicken)
4 plump garlic cloves
2 inches ginger, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
4 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
4 hot green chilies, cut lengthwise, seeds removed (Serrano, Thai Bird’s Eye or Jalapeños)
8 dried red peppers, whole (Kashmiri peppers from India have the best color and flavor, and are available on Amazon)
20 curry leaves (also available on Amazon)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds, whole
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 green cardamon, ground
2 star anise, ground
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne or ground hot red peppers
Combine the cumin, coriander, cardamon and star anise all together in a small pan, gently fry on low heat until aromatic and toasty. Allow to cool and grind into a powder. Add the rest of the spices… salt, cayenne (or ground hot red pepper) and turmeric.
If you are using shrimp in shells, peel the shrimp and boil down the shells in a sauce pan to arrive at 1/2 cup.
Soak the shredded coconut in a 1/4 cup of warm water or shrimp broth.
Marinate the shrimp in 2 tablespoon of tamarind… they should be dark red in color.
In a medium 10 inch fry pan, heat the oil or ghee until smoking. Add the mustard seeds, they should be popping and foaming, and then add about 15 curry leaves. Fry both on medium to high heat for 45 seconds until the curry leaves have blackened and flavored the oil.
Add the finely minced onion and saute’ until opaque, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger and the hot green peppers. Sauce until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
Add all the spices, stir in well. The pan should be fairly dry, so to keep the spices from burning, add the broth and stir well for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, coconut, whole red pepper and tamarind pulp, reduce the heat to medium, and allow to simmer and marry for 6 minutes.
Now add the shrimp and the last 5 curry leaves, simmer until the shrimp are just plump and cooked through. Serve on aromatic white rice.