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SHRIMP CURRY WITH ROASTED SPICES
Sri Lanka has south India to its north and South-East Asia to its east. Its food has aspects of both, as this recipe shows. The pandanus leaves and lemon grass hint at Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, while the cumin and coriander show the influence of India. The sauce for these shrimp is both rich and aromatic. It is best served with rice. Directions for peeling, deveining, and cleaning shrimp are on page 343.
Serves 4 to 5
4 hot dried red chilies
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 small stick cinnamon
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
3 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
6 tablespoons finely slivered shallots
1 small fresh hot green chili, cut into slivers (including the seeds)
2 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger, grated to a pulp
3 cloves garlic, crushed to a pulp
3-inch piece pandanus leaf (bai toey, rampe, daun paandan)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass (use the lower 6 inches and lightly crush the bulbous bottom) or 1 teaspoon dried, ground lemongrass
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon bright red paprika
1 pound raw, headless, shell-on, medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup coconut milk, from a well-shaken can
Put the red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves in a small, cast-iiron frying pan and set over a medium heat. Stir until the spices turn a shade darker and emit a roasted aroma. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Then grind them in a clean coffee or spice grinder.
Pour the oil into a wide, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the shallots and green chili. Stir and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir for about 15 seconds. Now pour in 1 1/2 cups of water and add the reserved roasted spices, pandanus leaf, lemongrass, salt, and paprika. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and coconut milk. Stir and bring to a simmer on a low heat. As soon as the shrimp are opaque all the way through, they are done. Check for salt, adding more if needed.