Some dishes are just meant to be eaten spicy hot and this recipe is no exception. If your taste buds are not used to the fiery heat that most Indians crave, then by all means feel free to adjust the seasonings to your personal preference. But I encourage you to add at least a little bit of heat to this dish, trust me; it really makes all the difference in the world.
This dish is actually a family favorite. It’s simple, versatile, effortless and a perfect dish for entertaining. I often make this recipe using shrimp or prawns but feel free to try this dish with your favorite seafood (scallops, any shellfish or firm fish will work). You can also make it completely vegetarian by using your favorite vegetables or paneer (or any combination) if you prefer. The basic recipe is more or less the same.
My new favorite spice is pimenton (smoked spicy Spanish paprika). This lovely spice has a wonderful subtle smoky and earthy flavor that surprisingly lends itself well to almost any Indian dish adding a delicate layer of depth and flavor. I find myself using pimenton more and more in my Indian dishes and encourage you to try it as well.
HOT & SPICY CHILLI SHRIMP
1.5 lbs large raw shrimp (peeled, de-veined, tail-on)
2-3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
3-4 small Thai red chillies slit in half lengthwise, to taste (de-seed them if you wish)
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp tamarind paste (tamarind powder or tamarind concentrate)
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1 tbsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
˝ tsp smoked paprika (Spanish pimenton, optional)
salt & pepper, to taste
juice of ˝ lime
1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped (flavored chives like garlic or lemon are fine to use)
4-5 fresh Basil leaves, finely chopped (or chiffonade, Thai basil works well in this dish)
2+ tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
a few drops of toasted sesame oil (optional)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
If you are using shrimp, scallops or seafood: wash, trim and prepare the seafood as needed. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, set aside until necessary. If you are using vegetables: wash, trim and prepare the veggies as needed. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, set aside until necessary. If you are using paneer: I recommend you lightly pan fry the paneer in a little oil until golden on all sides before using it for this recipe. This adds wonderful flavor to the dish and prevents the paneer from falling apart later when tossing it with spices and other ingredients.
In a large deep skillet or wok on high heat add a tbsp or so of the oil. When hot, quickly sear the shrimp on both sides for just a minute or two until lightly browned. They don’t need to be fully cooked at this point, just flash fried. This may need to be done in batches, set aside until needed.
Now reduce the heat to medium high and add a little oil to the wok if needed. Add the shallots, ginger, garlic and red chillies. Stir fry for a few minutes until fragrant and aromatic. Next, add the spices (salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and pimenton). Stir fry for a few minutes, allowing the spices to cook and lose their “raw” taste. Now, add the tomatoes and tamarind (either paste, concentrate or powder). Stir fry and let cook for 4-5 minutes. This dish is not really a curry, it is more like a stir fry but if you prefer a little sauce --- feel free to add a cup or so of water (you can also use stock if you have it on hand).
At this point, you can return the shrimp (or whatever seafood or vegetables of your choosing) to the wok. Stir fry for a few more minutes and then finish the dish by adding the lime juice, toasted sesame oil and the herbs (basil & chives). Stir to combine all of the ingredients and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with fragrant Basmati rice.