Heather and I were fortunate to make it to India earlier this year in order to attend a good friend’s wedding. And first, let me tell you that Indian weddings are so incredibly eventful… I certainly wasn’t ready for it myself.
Prior to the wedding itself, though, we took a few weeks to backpack through different regions. We were mostly in the Western part, but we did see our fair share of both Northern and Southern regions – roughly 6 in total (not bad for a couple weeks!).
Make no mistake that the term “Indian food” is completely misleading. It’s more appropriate to consider India’s culinary landscape as a large grouping of amazingly diverse regional cuisines that, in some cases, have very little in common. What we had in Kerala, for example, was worlds different from Rajasthani food.
Unfortunately, we never made it to Goa, even though it was really high on our list. The regional cuisine, this Goan prawn curry recipe included, boasts Portuguese influences and is (sometimes) milder spiced than food from other Indian provinces. Rice, seafood, and coconut milk are all key ingredients used in Goan recipes, which tends to yield a thicker gravy consistency to any recipe.
This Goan prawn curry was no exception. Even while we put in less coconut milk than was suggested (about 3/4 as much), the end result was just as delicious and rich.
One ingredient (and staple in Goan cuisine) that we did not skimp on, however, were the green chilis. To ensure that we were getting the full Goan flavor out of this curry, we kept our chilis with all their seeds and even flirted with the idea of throwing in a third chili. Ultimately, reason won, and we opted to set the third chili aside for another recipe. In our preparation for this Goan prawn curry, we slightly inverted the cooking order from the original recipe. It said to throw the prawns in before the liquids, but we did the opposite. We first threw the dry spices in, followed by the coconut milk, then the tamarind water, and then finally the prawns. We did this simply to ensure that the prawns wouldn’t risk overcooking while the rest of the flavors merged together.
This all turned out to be all for naught, however. We made the fatal mistake of letting the seafood over-marinate, and the vinegar really did a great job drying out the shrimp and making it slightly tougher. If there’s one takeaway you get from our experience, it’s to be vigilant to how much time the seafood is actually marinating for (this is true for most fish and seafood in vinegar-based or any other marinade with a high acidity level).
In the end, though, this Goan prawn curry turned out to be a very delicious and sophisticated dish. Every bite brought you on a journey as you traveled from tangy to sweet to spicy and then back to zesty. I’m personally a big fan of the Goan prawn curry, and it’s a dish I would love to make again very soon.
- ½ lb of peeled and deveined shrimp with tails on
- 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced then ground to a paste
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced then ground to a paste
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ¼ cup of hot water
- 1 table tamarind paste
- 2 green chilis, halved lengthwise down the middle (but not deseeded)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon kashmiri chili powder (or regular red chili powder suffices here too)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Mix the prawns with turmeric, vinegar, and salt and set aside for ~15 minutes Be very not to let them marinate for much longer, though, because the vinegar's acidity dry them out and make them tough.
- If you are using tamarind paste from a block (we were), add the paste to a small bowl and add hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to soften it into more of a paste texture. Remove any seeds or stems as you might find them
- Grind the cumin seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds and chili powder in either a mortar and pestle or using a coffee grinder. Break down into as fine a powder as possible.
- Heat the coconut oil in a deep sauté pan and add the onions. Fry for 5-7 mins on medium-high heat until the onions start to brown.
- Throw in the chopped tomato and fry for an additional 3-4 mins.
- As the tomatoes begin to soften and grow a more transparent red, add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the powdered spices and mix it all together. Fry for 2 minutes and add the coconut milk, water and tamarind paste.
- Stir it all together, add the green chilis and sugar, and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the marinated prawns, coating them in the spiced sauce while stirring, until they turn pink, for no more than 4 minutes.