These delightful shrimp curry carries the flavors from my home. Cooked in creamy coconut milk, it is redolent of cardamom and cinnamon – spicy but with a hint of sweet. And to this packet with memories, I have also added some pomegranate, a twist which worked out really well.
When Tika of Cemplang Cemplung asked me if I could write a post with a traditional recipe for her, I could think of nothing but my love for this particular shrimp curry cooked in coconut milk. A curry with a sweet aroma and the naturally orange hue calls my name. Chingri Maacher Malaikari is a classic. It is a well known and well loved recipe from my home state – West Bengal. Almost every special occasion (and not so special ones too) call for these jumbo shrimps and the air in the home dances with the fragrance of them getting cooked. I remember how I would eagerly wait for the meal time to lay by hands on these huge shrimps, all with head and tail on and the very aromatic yellow orange sauce seeping through the hot steaming rice.
The authentic recipe uses fresh coconut along with freshly squeezed coconut milk. My ma had to go though a very time consuming process of grating fresh coconut and making coconut milk at home. There were no pre-packaged cans; and even if there were, I double she would use it. The head of the shrimp does add a very different taste, texture and to some extent the orange hue to this quintessential dish.
The sight of these colossal shrimps enticed me as I walked by them; I turned around and came back to the counter and bought myself a few pounds. They reminded me of the times when my dad visited the Sundarbans ( the largest mangrove forests in the world), for his work, he would get these really enormous shrimps, almost sized like lobsters. And when he got them, all I could think of was my next meal.
I “met” Tika in Flickr. Along with the cooking, the love for food photography leads most food bloggers to Flickr; the spot to mingle with like minded people, to learn and discuss food photography. Her beautiful stream of photographs, led me to her blog. Besides the traditional recipes, she also writes about food photography which are like treasure posts for those who want to learn. Light, angles, tricks, you can find it all there. I am so happy to do this post for this warm wonderful lady.
This time, I did play around with the authentic recipe a tiny bit. I have the luxury of using ready to use cans of coconut milk. I have not used any fresh coconut. The original dish is spicy with a hint of sweet, and I though of using the fresh pomegranates that the season offers to further enhance this “little” sweet. The crunch and the juicy fresh pomegranates do add another dimension to it.
I also marinated the shrimp for a little while in pomegranate molasses. It might sound like a very unlikely combination, but the little tart and the depth of flavor of the molasses accessorized the dish without having it lose the original essence. And the scallions were crisp, fresh and very very non traditional, but lovely too.
Here is the recipe for my friend! I am really happy to do it for you. Thank you!
Do head over to her place, explore her blog and also find the recipe for Shrimp Curry with Pomegranate and Coconut Milk.
Shrimp Curry with Pomegranate and Coconut Milk
Ingredients: (serves 3-4 as a side dish)
- 1 pound (head on if you want) jumbo/colossal shrimp, de-veined, but tail on (you can keep the shell on if you want)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- 2.5 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1.5 cups coconut milk
- 1.5 inch ginger, peeled and grated or made into paste
- 2 hot green chili pepper, slit
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 2 small green cardamom
- 1 inch stick cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or to taste)
- 4 stalks of scallions – green parts only, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils to garnish/add before serving
Clean, de-vein and wash the shrimps. Leave the tail on and if you wish leave the shell and the head on. Pat them dry. Place the shrimp in a bowl. Add some salt, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and pomegranate molasses to the shrimp. Toss to coat and set aside to sit for about 15 – 30 minutes.
Transfer the marinated shrimp to a pan and cook with a couple of tablespoon of water added to it, for a couple of minutes, or just until the shrimp changes color and start to curl up. Remove from heat.
Combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, cinnamon, salt, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, sugar and red chili powder; set aside.
In another pan, heat oil. Add the cracked cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle and pop, add the slit green chili pepper and the grated ginger. Stir it for about a minute at medium heat. Do not overcook or brown the ginger. Just when the spices starts to get fragrant, add the spiced coconut milk, stir everything in and simmer from about 5-8 minutes in medium heat. The sauce will come to a boil. Add the partially cooked shrimp and any leftover liquid with it in to the pan. Partially cover the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
Switch off the heat and add the chopped scallions into the pan and stir them in. Adjust salt.
Just before serving add the pomegranate arils to it and stir them in (add the fresh pomegranate only to the part you would be serving as the arils wilt and change color in the sauce and does not taste as good if stored and saved for later). I would want to suggest that you serve the pomegranate arils by the side and garnish it as you eat.
Serve over hot white rice or with some nice crusty bread.