When I first met my husband, Arjun back in 2000 he would regale me with stories of foods he grew up eating, many with a heavy seafood emphasis, all of which sounded terribly exotic to me. My exposure to seafood up until college had been fairly limited and even 15 years ago I was still in a novice in the matters of delicacies from the ocean. I remember him mentioning this shrimp curry early on and it sounded almost Thai with its coconut milk base. On our first trip to India after we got engaged, Arjun’s grandmother made this shrimp coconut curry for us and I suddenly understood why, when he was thousands of miles away, he would talk about this dish. Its name, chingri maacher malai curry, was probably the first bit of Bengali that I learned just so I could request it again. It was slightly sweet, creamy, with soft spices and incredibly tender shrimp. I was hooked. While this dish is traditionally made with shrimp, it would be amazing with lobster too. Simply serve over Basmati rice with your favorite vegetable accompaniment. —Shveta Berry
medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 teaspoons
seranno or jalapeno chili
inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
cloves garlic thinly sliced
light coconut milk
full fat coconut milk or unsweetened coconut cream
mild red chili powder like kashmiri mirch
molasses, I prefer full flavored
small bay leaves
green cardamom, lightly crushed
In This Recipe
Mix the shrimp with 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt and set aside for a half hour.
In the meantime, grind together the shallots, ginger, and green chili a food processor, until it is smooth.
When the 30 minutes is up, heat 1 tbl of oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Lightly fry the shrimp until they turn pale golden and curl up. When the shrimp are done, remove to a paper towel lined plate.
Heat the remaining 1 tbl of oil and ghee in the same dutch oven. Add the garlic and fry until it is golden and then remove. For this dish you just want the gentle taste of the garlic flavored oil. You can used the fried garlic in another dish.
Add the whole spices and sauté for about 60 seconds until they release their aromas.
Add the onion-ginger-chili paste and cook until it turns lightly golden and dries up. This takes 4-5 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and sugar and mix well.
Add the red chili powder, remaining 1 tsp turmeric, and salt. Mix well and bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the molasses and stir thoroughly.
Add the cooked shrimp and simmer gently for 5 minutes to combine flavors and thicken the gravy a bit.