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