I have a confession: I have never stepped foot inside an Indian restaurant. It really seems absurd when I think about it, as I thoroughly enjoy Indian food. But for reasons still unclear, and although restaurant dining is, for all practical purposes, a hobby for me, it still hasn’t happened. In fact, of all the international cuisines I enjoy eating and cooking, Indian food seems to be the most challenging one to master. There just seems to be so much to understand. Indian food is as complex as its terrain, history, and culture.
India is an enormous country with over a billion citizens and like most melting pots, its countless regional cuisines reflect the varied religious and cultural influences and diverse climates. Also, India’s critical role in the spice trade over the last several hundred years has resulted in an almost impossibly wide range of flavor profiles, so it can be a challenge to nail down what constitutes “Indian food”; really, the only way to do justice to its complex nature is to experience it one dish at a time.
Owing to the fragrant and spicy curry powders, striking yellow turmeric and earthy cardamom and allspice, Indian cuisine is a guaranteed winner if you’re into bold flavors. Many of its inhabitants are vegetarians, so Indian food is a great choice if you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake or source a new recipe or two for your Meatless Monday. The dishes of India’s vast coastal areas also present unique opportunities to spice up your seafood recipe repertoire, and my recipe for Tandoori Shrimp Skewers is a quick and easy way to add some southern Asian flair to your family’s dinner.
My recipe begins with raw jumbo shrimp that have been peeled and deveined. Most markets sell shrimp already prepared this way, but if you find yourself looking at a bag of fully jacketed critters, don’t panic:
- Hold the shrimp with the legs facing you and slide your thumb under the top corner of the shell at the head end.
- Run your thumb down the length of the shell until you reach the bottom segment to which the tail is attached.
- Grip the bottom segment to keep it attached to the shrimp as you peel the top section of the shell along the seam with the bottom segment and away from the shrimp. Discard the shell or keep them and freeze to make a stock later.
- Turn the shrimp over so its back is facing you and make a shallow (1/8”) cut down the center from tip to tail to expose the dark vein.
- Remove the vein and rinse the shrimp in cold water to wash away any remaining debris.
Once your shrimp is prepped, all you have to do is slap a few ingredients together and let the shrimp marinate for a few minutes before skewering them and quickly grilling. In fact, if you’re fresh out of skewers–or don’t want to bother with them–you can grill the shrimp directly on the grates of the grill. Just remember that if you plan to use bamboo skewers to soak them in water for about an hour to reduce the chance that they’ll char and break.
The tangy yogurt and lime enhances the briny flavor of the shrimp, and the addition of the olive oil to the marinade helps bring out the oil soluble flavors of the curry powder and garlic. If you don’t have fresh or even jarred ginger, you can substitute ground ginger–the stuff you put in your cookies–but keep in mind you need just a fraction of the equivalent fresh since powdered spices are so much more potent: use 1/2 teaspoon.
Serve your shrimp skewers over a bed of brown or white basmati rice with a side of steamed or grilled veggies for a quick and healthy dinner. With such an easy preparation, spicing up your weeknight meals with this dish is almost as easy as ordering takeout from your favorite Indian place.
Servings: 12 (97 G)
Prep Time: 30 min.
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 min.
- ¾ cup plain lowfat yogurt
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 4 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 2 lbs. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Combine the yogurt, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, ginger, garlic and curry powder in a small bowl and stir well.
- Toss the shrimp with the sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Soak skewers in water and preheat grill to medium. Skewer shrimp and grill until shrimp turn opaque (3-5 minutes).
- Serve with lime wedges and cilantro leaves to garnish.