Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'd Rather Be At The Beach

This place. Would you please just look at this place then tell me why anyone wouldn't want to go there right now?! I don't want to hear the usual excuses - kids, husband, job, money, time etc. All I ask is that we imagine, just for a second, that we didn't have any of these things holding us back - let's hypothetically free the little hippie that lives inside all of us, and hop over to Goa, India today. Feel your toes digging into that smooth, warm sand; the sun's rays gently caressing your body; the oh-so-blue waters calling your name. And don't forget, this is the subcontinent, where you're never far from amazing food.

Y'know, I've never even been to Goa, but I know all this to be true. My gut tells me it is. I know I know, you experienced travelers out there might tell me it's a tourist trap, but hey, does that take away from how amazingly beautiful it is? And no one can convince me that the food isn't good. I've seen that Andrew Zimmern episode on the Travel Channel way too many times!

So today, as I'm sniffling and coughing and looking like a hobo in my own home, I'm wishing for an alternate reality where I was basking on the beaches of Goa, waiting for my lunch to arrive, wrapped in a banana leaf, via a friendly waiter from the nearby seafood restaurant. I'm sitting here, wishing for a world where one
doesn't get the flu despite getting the damned flu vaccine. And wouldn't it be lovely to just be served and pampered when one is sick? I'm not even picky enough to ask for chicken soup to ease my sore throat at times like these - all I want is someone else to do the cooking! That's it. At this moment, great food is whatever someone else can make for me.

Mmmmm, yes, I'll have some of that Goan-Style Shrimp Curry please! Since almost everything tastes like chalk to me right now, perhaps something zesty and spicy will actually bring my tastebuds back to life. And it's a real quickie, this one, which is another major advantage for those of us who're not in the mood to linger long out of bed. Let's take a look at all the goodies that go into this, shall we?

Goan-Style Shrimp Curry OR Balchao (Suvir Saran comes to my rescue once again! I've combined and tweaked two of his recipes found in American Masala and Indian Home Cooking)
Serves 4

Click here for printable recipe

Ingredients for the spice paste:
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
2-3 tsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)

Ingredients for the curry:
2 tbsp canola oil
2-4 whole dried red chiles
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
10 curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (or you can use canned, crushed tomatoes)
1/4 cup coconut milk

1 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter

Chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Mix all ingredients for the spice paste and set aside in a bowl.

2. Heat up the oil on medium-high, and drop in the dried chiles. Let them get dark, but not burnt, which should take about 1 min.

3. Add the onion and saute till golden-brown. Sprinkle in the sugar, then add the spice paste. Cook everything for another min.

4. Add the curry leaves and the tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes lose some of their moisture. Then add the coconut milk and let it all simmer for 4-5 mins.

5. In the meantime, melt the butter in a separate frying pan on medium-high heat, and cook the shrimp (which have been sprinkled with salt n pepper) till golden and firm (just 2-3 mins).
6. Then transfer the cooked shrimp into the curry, giving it a good stir to meld all the flavors. Add a sprinkle of salt to the curry if you think it needs it. Turn off the heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with fluffy basmati rice or bread/roti.

Verdict: I've had all kinds of shrimp curries in the past, but this recipe has become my favorite version of it. It's quite versatile because you can adjust the heat in this to your liking, and the taste won't suffer for it. The coconut milk makes it creamy, while the tomatoes and vinegar make it tangy, and those curry leaves just perfume the whole thing. My favorite way is to have it with plain basmati rice and crispy poppadoms. It's a great alternative to the usual meat or chicken curries.
Golden, plump shrimp explode with Goan flavors.

I may feel like a pile of snot right now, but all I have to do is look at my little guy to put things in perspective and smile at all the good things in my life ...
Hmmm, Ozzy may not be at the beach, but that's never stopped him for finding his own nirvana - excuse me folks, I think I'll join him there!