Just like the eskimos supposedly have more than 100 names for ‘snow’, I am pretty sure that the ‘Kochi-ites'(Kochi is a coastal town in Kerala) have about the same number of names for shrimp! 🙂 And then they also know how to cook it in 100 different ways! Shrimp Curries, shrimp sautés , shrimp pickles, dried shrimp chutneys … you name it, they have it ! Even within each category, you can see umpteen variations based on different accompanying ingredients. For instance green plantains,muringakka (moringa pods), green papaya and green mangoes are commonly paired with shrimp to create different versions of the same curry base. But yet each one tastes different and unique because there are subtle variations in the spices used in each curry.
Toasted coconut or coconut that is browned is mixed with spices and ground into a paste and forms the basis for this ‘Varatharacha curry(which simply means roasted and ground)’. This similar curry base is also used to cook chicken. However as you can imagine both the chicken and shrimp versions taste totally different from each other and of course delicious in their own way!
My amma used to make three different variations of shrimp curry and we kids had labeled them as ‘yellow curry’, which is a milder curry using green chillies and coconut; red curry – the hot and spicy version with lots of red chili and then finally this curry with the roasted coconut masala which we called ‘brown curry’ 🙂 This curry tasted the best when amma cooked it and I have yet to taste a better version.
This curry is very very close to my heart. Because it was always my favorite and it was also the last curry that my amma cooked for me. When she was really really sick and barely had the strength to do anything in the kitchen, she cooked this curry for me since it was my favorite. I was visiting her since she was sick and I was the one supposed to be taking care of her. Yet, for her I was always her baby and she pampered me till the very end. Now I always cook this curry on her passing away anniversary. Every year I try to make it better so that it tastes more like how she made it and I think I am getting closer to nailing her version.
By the way, a vegetarian version of this curry can also be made with different vegetables and potatoes or with just potatoes! Tastes super yum!
- 1 lb shrimp,about 15-20 medium size shrimp, deveined and de-shelled
- 1 cup sliced green plantains or green papaya (could substitute potatoes or taro root too)
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (use less for mildly spicy)
- ½ cup water.
- ¾ cup grated coconut(freshly grated or frozen thawed)
- 6-10 black peppercorns (use fewer for mildly spicy)
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- ½ cup hot water
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp chopped red onions
- 1 dry red chilli, broken into two pieces
- 6-8 fresh curry leaves
- Take a clay pot or a regular cooking pot and add the shrimp, green papaya or plantain pieces, turmeric, salt, red chilli powder and water. Cover and cook for 10 mins on low heat. Set aside.
- In a non stick or hard anodized heating pan, roast grated coconut for about 10 mins on medium heat stirring continuously to avoid burning until it turns golden brown. Add the black pepper corns and fennel seeds and toast for 1 more min. Add coriander and turn heat off. In a food processor or blender, grind the above coconut mixture into a fine paste using the hot water.
- Now put the pot with the cooked shrimp mixture back on heat and add the ground masala to it and stir well. Cook on low to medium heat until the curry starts to boil - about two minutes or so. Adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding more water if desired. Turn the heat off.
- In a small tadka pan or a small frying pan, heat the coconut oil. when hot add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the onions and saute until golden brown. Then add the dry red chillies and stir for about 30 seconds and turn the heat off. Finally add the curry leaves and pour this tempered oil mixture onto the curry and stir.
- Serve the shrimp curry with parboiled rice and pappadums. 🙂