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Food

Let Shrimp Curry Satisfy Your Taste Buds

Posted June 19, 2018 3:17 p.m. EDT

Ingredients for coconut shrimp curry with mushrooms, May 14, 2018. The shrimp is left to steep in spices for a bit, starting with a combination of salt and pepper, turmeric, cumin and coriander, and adding chiles and sweet-sour tamarind paste, before being cooked in coconut oil and coconut milk. (Karsten Moran/The New York Times)

For me, every meal begins at the market — in this case, the fish market. The routine is always the same: Check what is on display, find the most fetching option and consider guests’ tastes (and the contents of my wallet). Take the plunge.

On a recent trip, I saw many attractive possibilities, but it was the wild Georgia shrimp, still in the shell, that caught my eye. With a little ingenuity, a pound of these beauties could feed a table of four. But, the question was, how?

It would be easiest to toss them, unshelled, into a pot of boiling water, seasoned with plenty of salt and aromatics, then serve them with melted butter or a mayonnaise-based sauce for dipping, some crusty French bread or a few boiled potatoes. Peeling the shrimp at the table would be part of the evening’s entertainment.

For something fancier, I could peel and devein the raw shrimp — it’s not difficult, though some fishmongers will do it for you — and sauté them in butter. Add salt, pepper, tarragon, perhaps, a splash of white wine, and they are done in minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

I am also partial to spaghetti with shrimp. I cook the shrimp in extra-virgin olive oil, and, just before they are done, add a good dash of crushed red pepper and lots of chopped garlic and parsley. Then, I toss the whole lot with perfectly al dente pasta.

But maybe because it was a warm, sunny day, I made a relatively simple shrimp curry. For best results, I let the shrimp steep in spices for a bit, starting with a combination of salt and pepper, turmeric, cumin and coriander, and adding chilies and sweet-sour tamarind paste. Mushrooms, a natural pairing, also played a part. You can use whatever cultivated varieties you can find, whether button-type brown or white ones, pale gray or golden oyster mushrooms.

To put it all together, I used coconut oil and coconut milk. My Indian grocery had fresh curry leaves, so I added those to the pan, but the dish is fine without them. Mint and cilantro and lime wedges decorated the platter.

I was feeling lazy, so I bought a jar of bright green chutney, the saucy kind made from puréed mint, chilies and coriander, with a touch of sugar and coconut. It is not hard to make, but this particular store-bought brand tasted surprisingly homemade.

I put it in a bowl and sent it to the table as well, for a little kick. Everyone loved the curry, but the chutney? That was my secret.

RECIPE:

Coconut Shrimp Curry With Mushrooms

Ingredients:

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

1 serrano chili, finely diced

Pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons coconut oil

A few fresh curry leaves (optional)

6 ounces mushrooms, chopped

2 cups coconut milk, fresh or canned

A few mint leaves and cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Preparation:

1. Put shrimp in a medium bowl, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin, tamarind paste, serrano chili and cayenne, and mix to coat well. Leave to marinate for 5-10 minutes.

2. Heat coconut oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add curry leaves, if using, and let them sputter, then add mushrooms and stir-fry gently for about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, stirring for about 1-2 more minutes until shrimp have turned pink and mushrooms have softened.

3. Add coconut milk and simmer for about 1 minute. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with mint and cilantro and serve, with lime wedges on the side.

And to Drink ...

For moderately spicy curries bathed in coconut milk like this one, I would look for a bottle of spätlese riesling from Germany. These wines are moderately sweet, yet the thrilling balance between acidity and residual sugar left after fermentation renders them tense and refreshing, just the thing to go with the richness of the coconut milk, the complexity of the spices and any chil heat. If you abhor the thought of sweetness in wine, try a dry German riesling instead. You could also try a good aligoté from Burgundy. And if for some reason you want a red, I have found that inexpensive, unoaked cabernet francs from the Loire go surprisingly well with curries. — ERIC ASIMOV