I have never really tried Indian seafood before–which is crazy as I am well aware a large part of the country has seashore–so I was not quite sure what to expect with this dish. I will not go so long next time. This was fantastic–sweet, savory, sour. It complemented the shrimp perfectly. I would even venture to say that this shrimp dish was the star of my Indian Holiday Dinner with my in-laws. There was copious quantities of all dishes, including this on, to start with, leading to much leftovers–except this dish. As a matter of fact, I doubt there was even one serving left.
Iyer notes you can make the dish without the back salt, using sea salt instead, but that the dish will lose some of its smoky appeal. I have the black salt, so I used it–I will warn you, do not smell it. It is highly sulfurous–and the smell kind of lingers in the nose. I panicked about my dish the entire time it was cooking, imagining I could smell rotten eggs in it!! However, much like fish sauce, anchovies, asafetida and other odiferous delicacies that elevate finished dishes, the black salt smells terrible (to me anyway) but tasted just fine in the finished dish.
2 T vegetable oil
1/3 cup minced ginger
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb red onions, thinly sliced and fried down in (additional) 2 T vegetable oil on medium heat (30 minutes or more)
2 T tomato paste
2 t amchur powder (mango)
2 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1/2 – 1 t black salt
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t cayenne or paprika, to heat tolerance
2 T brown sugar (optional)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined but tails left on
2 T chopped cilantro
First prepare the onions by slowly caramelizing them in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Scrape out of pan and set aside when done. Re-use the same pan.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and fry until golden brown and fragrant, 1-3 minutes. Add it to the onions and transfer the entire mass to a blender. Add 3/4 cup water and the tomato paste. Puree to make a thick paste. Transfer the paste back into the skillet. Pour 1/4 cup water into the blender and swish it around–add this water to the pan.
Add the amchur powder, coriander, cumin, black salt, turmeric and cayenne/paprika. Bring the pan to a simmer over medium heat and cover it. Simmer, covered, for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 7 minutes, add another 1/2 cup water into the pan and re-cover it. Simmer, covered, another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour another 1/2 cup of water into the sauce and stir it in. Simmer, covered, again for 8-10 minutes. The sauce will thicken, and the oil in the sauce may separate, which is fine, desired even (mine never seemed to separate much by my standards, but it tasted fine). Add the brown sugar, if using, to taste.
Add the shrimp and stir. Cover the pan and poach the shrimp in the sauce, until curled and salmon-orange, 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with basmati rice (or flatbread).