Anyone with even a passing interest in Indian food will surely cross paths with Madhur Jaffrey. An accomplished actress, she has appeared in more than 20 movies and was muse to and star in Merchant and Ivory’s marvelous films including “Shakespeare Wallah”, “Heat and Dust ” and “Cotton Mary”. But she is also a true star in the kitchen and has written 15 books on Indian cooking including “From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail” (Clarkson Potter 2003) which is where I found this recipe.
I really encourage people to get acquainted with the flavors of Indian cooking. They bring another dimension to the table and, as I have said before, it is not always about mouth-searing heat. Instead, it introduces your palate to a whole world of new flavors and spices that don’t appear often in American cooking. There’s a richness and layering that is pure pleasure to eat. Indian food is found in almost every corner of the globe as Indians have migrated around the world. As you can see from the name of this recipe, it hails from Singapore, and a restaurant in Little India there that is called Mutthu’s. But, Ms. Jaffrey notes, its origins are very south Indian.
There’s an adventure taking on an Indian recipe that adds another dimension to its preparation. Some of its ingredients are simply not found in your local grocery, although I do see in our Whole Foods an emergence of some of the most traditional Indian spices, like Garam Masala. But for things like curry leaves and tamarind paste, a trip to an Indian market is a must. As the Indian-American population grows, they are easier than ever to find. In New York, Little India, the area surrounding Lexington Avenue in the 20s is full of Indian grocers, my personal favorite being the Little India Store at 128 East 28th St. (Tel:212 683 1691) Now if you aren’t near an Indian grocer, everything can be ordered on line from this store by going to www.littleindianewyork.com
The list of ingredients in this dish are daunting at first it’s actually not at all hard to prepare and once you’ve stocked up on these spices, I can almost promise you will make this again and again. And I can’t recommend Costco’s frozen shrimp highly enough. In the 21-25 count package and at 2 lbs for $15.99, they’re a wonderful bargain and very useful when you have last minute guests. I was asked how long I thought there’d be shrimp at Costco after the incredible destruction from the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, fully 80 % of the shrimp consumed in this country do not come from the Gulf: My Costco bag’s origins are clearly labeled “Vietnam”.
This recipe doesn’t take much time at all. It also can be made hours in advance, minus the coconut milk and the shrimp. You then heat it up, add those last two crucial ingredients for all of a very few minutes and that’s it. The scented rice is a must-make partner to the shrimp. And the aroma from it is superb additions of clove and cinnamon is transporting.
Here is the recipe:
Singapore-Style Shrimp Curry with Scented Rice
For the Curry:
4 tbsp. corn or peanut oil
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
½ tsp. whole fennel seeds
¼ tsp. whole fenugreek seeds
10-15 fresh curry leaves, if available—if not, I am not sure you
will miss them.
3 good-sized shallots (3 ounces) finely sliced into slivers
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into fine slivers
1 medium tomato (about 6 ounces) peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. ginger, peeled and very finely grated.
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. bright red paprika
1 tbsp. thick tamarind paste
1 tsp. salt
2 lbs of raw, headless shrimp, peeled and deveined
14 ounce can of Coconut Milk, well shaken*
Handful of fresh cilantro
*I highly recommend using the “Lite” version of the coconut milk as there is a shocking amount of fat in the “Whole” version
For the Rice:
1 cup of Basmati Rice
A cinnamon stick cut into 3- 1 inch lengths
6 whole cloves
2 tbsp butter
P Pour the oil into a wide pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds. Five seconds later, put in the curry leaves.
Stir once, then add the shallots and garlic and turn the heat down to medium. Fry, stirring, until the shallots have softened and the garlic is golden. Stir in the tomato and ginger ad cook until the tomato has softened, mashing it with the back of a wooden spoon to help it along. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and paprika. Stir once then add 1 cup of water, the tamarind paste and the salt. Stir and bring this to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 10 to 12 minutes. You can stop the cooking process at this point and hold the sauce for several hours.
Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
3. Just before serving, heat the sauce through, then add the well-shaken coconut milk and stir ‘til it is well mixed in. Add the shrimp and bring to a simmer, stirring as you do so. As soon as the shrimp turn opaque, turn off the heat. Stir in the cilantro and serve. Serves 6.