Not to be confused with curry powder (the premixed spice blend dating back to the British colonists), the dish curry originated on the Indian subcontinent. Most recipes feature copious individual spices, herbs and chiles, and many (but not all) are saucy. This variation from the state of Kerala in southwest India isn’t simmered with the north’s rich dairy (no yogurt or cream). It’s lighter but deeply flavored with the hallmarks of the region’s coastal cooking: shredded coconut, fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, and raw rice toasted and used like a spice.
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1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
6 shallots, minced (1 cup)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon raw basmati rice, plus cooked rice for serving
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 small dried red chiles
12 fresh curry leaves (see Note)
2 cups packed cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1 cup packed mint leaves
1/2 cup tamarind puree
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup ghee
One 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (2 teaspoons)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato—halved and shredded on the large holes of a box grater, skin
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the shredded coconut on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing halfway through, for about 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool.
In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the toasted coconut, 1/3 cup of the shallots, the mustard seeds and turmeric. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small, dry skillet, toast the coriander seeds, raw rice, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, dried chiles and 4 of the curry leaves over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool, then grind to a powder.
In a blender, pulse the 2 cups of cilantro with the mint, tamarind puree, brown sugar, lime juice and jalapeño until a finely chopped chutney forms. Season with salt.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the ghee until shimmering. Add the remaining 2/3 cup of shallots, the ginger and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes.
Season the shrimp mixture with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until the shrimp starts to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato and the spice mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of water and the remaining 8 curry leaves, bring to a simmer and cook until the shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro; serve with the chutney and cooked rice.
Indian cooks typically keep in the fragrant but tough whole curry leaves, but they are not to be eaten, so push them to the side of your plate.
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