Jhinga Masala – Coconut Curried Shrimp

by Jenn on March 19, 2012

in Dairy Free,Gluten Free,Seafood

Jhinga Masala

I have very little experience with Indian food.  A couple of times I’ve gone out to eat at an Indian restaurant, but even then I can count those experiences on just one hand.  Why? I’m not really sure.  Every time I’ve had a chance to taste Indian food I’ve enjoyed it, and much of it is naturally gluten free – another bonus.  Maybe I just never got enough exposure to feel confident enough in what I was doing to try to cook it.  But really, when has that ever stopped me? I mean, most of the things I’ve made for this blog have been a bit of an adventure in the totally new and unfamiliar – whether it be new flavors, new ingredients (jerusalem artichokes anyone?), or even new techniques to experiment with.

So when Barbara, Prerna, and Kathy decided to host #IndianFoodPalooza in order to encourage more people to try making Indian food, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of and get me out of my comfort zone a bit.  But wow, India has such varied culture and cuisine, where and how to choose what to make?  I decided to go for more southern recipes, as I knew they would have more chance of being naturally gluten free, and I didn’t want to try to focus on figuring out substitutions as well as new cuisine.  I gravitated towards recipes with coconut flavors because, well, I love coconut – did a little searching online and came across a shrimp dish with coconut curry that I just knew I had to try!

While not directed to in the original recipe for Goan Prawn Curry, I decided if I was going to make my own curry from scratch that would include toasting the ingredients too.  I just feel that toasting brings out a richness in flavors that always adds to a dish – that and the smell of coconut wafting through our home is intoxicating.  Coconut, tumeric, coriander, peppers, cumin, ginger, garlic, all of it together made for a lovely enticing aroma.

Toasted Curry Spices

I then got out my mortar and pestle, and ground all the spices by hand.  Why? I like to use my mortar and pestle – it’s extremely efficient, and in this case much more so than a food processor or coffee grinder would be given that most everything is already in such small pieces.  Grinding spices is a bit therapeutic and meditative, kind of like chopping vegetables.  And really, does anyone actually use a coffee grinder for both spice grinding and coffee grinding?  If you’ve ever tried you will quickly learn that you can’t really get the coffee taste out of anything you add to it, and the same goes for the spices that you choose to grind in it – you don’t want to later find yourself drinking basil or garlic flavored coffee, do you? bleghh. Please don’t use your coffee grinder as a spice grinder, unless you don’t actually ever use it for coffee.  A mortar and pestle may seem a bit luddite, but sometimes it’s the low-tech methods that just work best.  If you don’t own one, they really are useful in a variety of situations, and grinding spices together is definitely one of many ways they come in handy.

After that came blending the ground spices together with a little water to make a paste, frying up some onions and peppers, and adding in coconut milk and shrimps.  I chose to buy raw shrimps because buying already cooked shrimp and then cooking it = overdone hard and rubbery shrimps.  Though I did learn this week that buying crevettes tail-on crus rather than cuits at the seafood counter was a rather shocking event for others to see in the grocery store.  One elderly woman next to me asked me (en français of course) what in the world I was going to do with raw shrimp?!  So I told her I was going to cook them in a coconut curry, and I think she was totally stunned that someone would go to the effort to cook shrimp.  This entire conversation with her surprised me, because most people around where I live do cook – a lot – if for no other reason than it’s too expensive to eat otherwise.

The shrimps cooked wonderfully in the coconut curry, which I served with a little lime infused rice.  Is it the most authentic recipe? I have no idea.  Was it tasty? You bet. I’ve made it twice now I loved it so much, and I’m so glad this event is going on this month to give me the motivation I needed to try a new cuisine.  I’ll surely be looking up and trying more Indian recipes in the future!

Want to participate? Make an Indian dish and blog about it this month, and then add it to Prerna, Kathy, or Barbara’s site. Check out everyone else’s great posts for ideas and inspiration, and hopefully you’ll get to learn about some new foods to try and make!  Also follow the hashtag #IndianFoodPalooza on twitter :)

And speaking of trying new foods and recipes, I had a lot of fun being interviewed by Shannon of Enjoying Gluten-Free Life on how I approach gluten free cooking and exploring new foods and dishes – go have a look!


Jhinga Masala – Goan Prawn Curry

Adapted from Meena Pathak and Sunil Menon at Delicious Magazine
Prep Time: 5 minutes for gathering ingredients, chopping
Total Time: 1 hour


  • 100g coconut, grated
  • 5 red chiles
  • 4 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • oil for cooking (I used olive oil)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 large green chiles, chopped
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 250 mL (about 1 cup) coconut milk
  • 500g (about 1 lb.) shrimp, deveined and peeled but with tail on, raw


1. In a large pan heat coconut, red chiles, coriander, cumin, tumeric, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns on fairly high heat, stirring often until the coconut becomes aromatic and starts to brown.
2. Remove from heat, and grind spices together in a mortar and pestle (this may need to be done in batches).  Once ground, add enough water to the spices to form a paste.
3. In a large pan, heat up cooking oil, and cook onions until softened.  Add the curry paste, and cook a couple minutes more.  Then  add in the green chiles and tamarind paste, and a couple minutes later add in the coconut milk and shrimp.  Cook until the shrimp are cooked through and pink, turning them to make sure they cook on both sides at about the same time.
4. Serve with basmati rice and enjoy.


Also submitted to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Gluten Free Wednesdays


Barbara | Creative Culinary March 20, 2012 at 12:37 am

Mmmm, this sounds just terrific Jenn; I love the combination of sweet and heat and well, the ‘shrimps’ look divine. For someone not experienced you did a great job and thanks so much for joining #IndianFoodPalooza!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

Thanks so much Barbara!

Ben March 20, 2012 at 12:50 am

Those prawns look huge! I’m the same way with Indian food. I enjoy it, but I don’t have much experience with it. I guess making this recipe is a good way to start.

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:22 am

Thanks Ben! Would love to see your spin on Indian flavors!!

InTolerantChef March 20, 2012 at 12:52 am

So delicious indeed! I love Indian curries but my husband loves Thai curries. This last week I made a Cinnamon Goat Curry, and he countered with a Mussaman Curry- bring on the curry wars I say!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:23 am

Ha awesome! We love Thai curries too – something else I need to make more often!

bhavani/ameanderingmango March 20, 2012 at 1:34 am

Good for you for trying something new – and it looks fantastically delicious!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thanks so much!

notyet100 March 20, 2012 at 2:46 am

Platter,looks delicious,..

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thank you :)

Kathy Gori March 20, 2012 at 5:23 am

Thanks so much or joining us on #indianfoodpalooza . This looks soooooo delicious! Photos are extraordinary too!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:24 am

Thanks Kathy – and what a fun event!!

Richa March 20, 2012 at 6:03 am

This looks great even to someone who doesn’t eat non-vegetarian food!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:24 am


Sara{OneTribeGourmet} March 20, 2012 at 6:25 am

Oh my goodness, this dish looks mouthwatering! Love the spicy, tangy & creamy flavors! Also love the addition of Tamarind paste…my favorite!

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thanks – tamarind paste wasn’t the easiest find here, but I’m so glad I was able to eventually – it just has such a unique flavor :)

Rosa March 20, 2012 at 8:14 am

I also love using my mortar and pestle.

This dish looks scrumptious! A wonderful recipe. The flavors are just mouthwatering.



Jenn March 20, 2012 at 8:16 am

Thanks Rosa!!

myfudo March 20, 2012 at 8:46 am

I wont be able to enjoy this dish since i am hypersensitive to shrimps but I will enjoy looking at my husband devouring everything on the plate =)

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Hope he enjoys it!

Labonnebouche March 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Your dish looks so good, and the fact that it has coconut in makes it even better. Got some spices from India not long ago, can’t wait to use them in your recipe. Thanks for sharing !

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Thank you!!

Kiri W. March 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Absolutely lovely – I adore coconut with shrimp, and these look utterly fantastic.

Jenn March 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Oh thanks!

Brooke (Crackers on the Couch) March 20, 2012 at 11:46 pm

This looks lovely. In case you’re still looking for inspiration, one of my favorite all time cooking blogs just happens to be Indian. Love Food Eat is very simple Indian food, beautifully photographed, and a departure from the heavily sauced dishes you’ll find in most restaurants. Chinmayie does a lot of gluten-free and vegetarian food, too!

Jenn March 21, 2012 at 8:41 am

Thanks, I’ll have to check it out!

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com March 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Absolutely divine!! I can’t think of a better way to enjoy shrimp!

Jenn March 22, 2012 at 8:13 am


France @ Beyond The Peel March 22, 2012 at 7:14 am

I love my mortar and pestle and I find the texture of the ground spice to be far more interesting that that of an electric grinder. Some bits and pieces being a little larger than others give delightful pops of flavor throughout the dish! :)

Jenn March 22, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thanks, and yes that is one of the reasons I love to use my mortar and pestle as well!

Beth Michelle March 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

For someone who isnt used to making Indian food, you did a really wonderful job. This shrimp looks amazing.

Jenn March 24, 2012 at 10:22 am

Oh Thanks!!

Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. March 24, 2012 at 4:19 am

looks amazingly wonderful!

Jenn March 24, 2012 at 10:22 am

Thanks Alison!!

Melanie March 25, 2012 at 1:13 am

Jen how many servings does this make?

Jenn March 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I’ve been getting 4 servings out of it when served with rice…

Sally - My Custard Pie March 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

Good for releasing tension that mortar and pestle! Lovely recipe and pics.

Jenn March 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Ha yes it is, thanks so much!

Peddler's Choice April 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm

A great recipe! I almost never get to east seafood, definitely not as much as I’d like! Thank you for this post.

Jenn April 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Thanks so much! I love shrimp, I cook it often :)

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