Shrimp Masala

Seafood dishes are usually served with a side of rice but growing up, we had them with rotis or naan bought from the next door tandoor vala all the time. The joy of scooping a succulent masala laced shrimp with soft roti or paratha is something. There would be a sirke vale pyaz (vinegar soaked onions) or cucumbers to go along and on some days, no rice at all 🙂

In northern india, in those days, shrimp were a difficult to find. A fancy items store near our house, used to carry them – a frozen pack of super tiny prawns that mom would sometimes turn into this dish. I looked a lot but could not find super small shrimp so I used what I usually buy- raw, deveined wild caught jumbo shrimp. If you happen to lay hands on shell on shrimp, use those, its a bit of hassle while eating but so worth it. This shrimp dish has a ginger, cumin and kasuri methi (fenugreek seeds) laced fresh tomato sauce. The fenugreek seeds swell up a bit after cooking and they add such a bitter sweet bite to the masala. I like to cook it in mustard oil however use any cooking oil you like. So delicious & easy when you want to rustle up a quick dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 lb(about 400gms) raw shrimp/prawns, deveined
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp pure mustard oil (substitute with cooking olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (yield about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp hot red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (gives a red hue, can be skipped)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor, substitute with lemon juice to taste)
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, crushed between palms)
  • 1/3 cup of warm water (adjust to desired consistency of the curry, adjust amount accordingly)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


Rub the shrimp with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder & pinch of salt while you make the masala.

In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat on high up till you see slow ripples and little smoke on the surface. Reduce heat to medium. Add cumin & fenugreek seeds, let crackle. Then, add onions, keep sautéing and cook them till golden brown. Takes about 6-8 minutes. Next, add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling the garlicky aroma.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and ginger next along with kashmiri chilli, red chilli, coriander, and turmeric powders. Add a pinch of sugar. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. Cook thoroughly to reduce moisture from tomatoes . This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush. Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Reduce the stove to lowest. Wait for 2 minutes.Then, add the marinated shrimp next.Also add salt to taste. Stir around gently so that the shrimp are coated in the masala. Cover the pan and cook on low for 5 -8 minutes or until the shrimps are opaque. This cooking time will depend on the size of shrimp. Adjust accordingly. When the shrimp is just about done, add the water (if using) to adjust the consistency of sauce. Add the kasuri methi, amchoor and garam masala and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes till everything comes together.

Let sit covered for at least 10 minutes, undisturbed.Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.


Leave a Reply