A beautifully flavored simple shrimp curry is what we have today. I would call it “Chingri Maacher Jhaal” in Bengali. A recipe cannot get simpler than this. If you think making curry was hard work, you have to give this a try You might just change your mind!
This shrimp curry was cooked by my cousin sister. She came to visit me and decided to take over the kitchen for that day, with the thoughts of giving me a break and also so I could learn to make this dish which she had been raving about even before she got here. That is the best part about sisters… They think about you, understand you and want to make you feel good! That is her.
The recipe requires very few ingredients and fresh cilantro/coriander is one of the most important ones here.
We grew up together, first in the joint family and then living side by side with a short wall separating us. Our little hands held the iron window grilles, the fingers snugly fitted in to the patterned curves of the grilles. She stood in her room and me in mine and we talked and talked and talked with only the windows between us. We made up our own language so no adults understood (may be they still did, but we thought they did not then). We went to school together, we came back together and we were literally inseparable the rest of the time. I never missed not having a real sister of my own. She was mine. We sat on the couch when I was 5 and she was 3 and pretended we were sailing in the midst of the ocean. We reached down and felt the water with our hands. Imagination can take you anywhere.
I am talking of many years back, but it does not seem that way. We still remember every bit of what we shared including the little fights, the pinches and the occasional tears. We are only two years apart, but she always was and always will be my “little sister”.
And I feel good writing about this! Now it is recorded; a little bit more than just between us. What we share is precious.
If you are wondering what that alien thing is on the left of the photograph…:) It is an essential gadget in an Indian kitchen.
In my language we call it SNaRashi. This is used to take the hot kaDai/Indian wok off the heat. No mittens or kitchen towels are used. Some Kadais have 2 handles on the sides and some do not (as you see in the picture on the right). But since the kadais we use are made of iron, they get very hot, the towels and not always good enough to move the utensils.
She cooked this for me three years back. Why I waited so long to post this I have no idea. The sauce (it is more like a soup/stew) is light, loaded with flavors of the spices. An afternoon with my sister/my close pal, long hours on the dining table trying to catch up on all those years we did not meet over some hot steamed basmati rice soaked up with the shrimp curry. A day to remember.
I have made the dish innumerable times after that. But this time it was even better as I used homegrown cilantro!
My garden is starting to look real. The little saplings have started holding their heads high and straight and some have starting blooming.
We are growing a patch of fresh coriander; fresh green and very aromatic. Now I know how unlike the real coriander those bunches with big leaves and stems sold in the stores smell. The leaves in my yard measure half the size of what I regularly buy but the fragrance is just unbeatable. All I needed was a tiny fistful to flavor the dish. Even the children knew the difference!
My sister learned this from her mom in law who is supposedly a fantastic cook. I have never had the opportunity to meet her but I trust my sister and I love this recipe, so I have no reason to think otherwise. It is a bowlful of deliciousness with almost no effort and with very little time invested. The nigella and the green chili pepper create magic as they sizzle in the oil and the fresh herbs intensifies it!
Shrimp Curry with Nigella and Coriander
- 1 lb large tiger prawn, peeled (you may leave the tail on) and deveined
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon red chili powder to taste (more or less)
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon oil (pure virgin mustard oil if possible)
- 1 teaspoon nigella/kalonji/kalo jeere
- 1.5 tablespoon freshly ground coriander powder
- 2 green hot chili pepper, slit
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh coriander/cilantro leaves and tender stem, shredded/thinly sliced
- 2- 2.5 cups water or as needed
Wash, shell and devein the prawn/shrimps and pat them dry. Sprinkle some salt, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon red chili powder and toss well. Allow them to marinate for about 15 minutes.
In a pan add half cup of water and the shrimp along with the marinade and cook for a couple of minutes or until the shrimps turns whitish and opaque. Remove and set aside.
In another pan heat oil. Lightly crush the nigella, between your palms or with a rolling pin. Add the nigella/kalonji seeds and the slit green chili pepper. When the seeds sizzle and the chili pepper turns brownish, add the shrimps to the pan. Save the liquid. Toss and stir for about a minute. The spiced oil should coat the shrimps.
In a bowl combine salt, turmeric, coriander powder, red chili powder and the rest of the water. Add this to the pan along with the liquid (if any) from the shrimp. Simmer for about 10 – 12 minutes; the liquid will reduce a bit will the shrimps soak in the flavors of the spices. (adjust water to how soupy you want it to be).
Switch off the heat and add the fresh cilantro/coriander and stir them in. Cover and allow it to sit for about five minutes.
Serve hot with hot steamed rice.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes (includes marinating)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves: 4-6 as a side