Masala Shrimp — My New Favorite Weeknight Recipe

Naan is a great way to scoop up this zesty, spicy Masala shrimp.

Crunchy, fresh shrimp with the heat of cayenne and earthiness of turmeric. Sauteed for a few minutes in a pan, then garnished with cilantro, chopped avocado, and a squirt of lime.

It’s really supposed to be an appetizer. But I’m here to tell you it makes one great entree alongside Trader Joe’s tender naan.

This recipe for Masala Shrimp is by the Bay Area’s Niloufer Ichaporia King, and excerpted from her book, “My Bombay Kitchen” (University of California Press).

You’ll also find it in the new cookbook, “The Flavors of Asia” (DK Publishing), a compendium of pan-Asian recipes inspired by the Worlds of Flavors conferences at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, where King was a speaker and presenter.

The cookbook is a great souvenir for anyone who’s enjoyed a “Worlds of Flavor” conference at the Culinary Institute.  And for those who haven’t, it’s definitely an inducement to make a beeline to the next one.

Shrimp Masala

(Serves 8 )

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Indian chili powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 pound 8 oz shrimp (26-30 count), peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 key lime, cut into eighths

24 cilantro leaves

1 small avocado, cut into small-dice (optional)
Combine the cayenne or chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Rub the spice mixture onto the shrimp. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Fry the shrimp in the oil until they lose their translucency, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Do not overcook.

Serve at once, garnished with the lime, cilantro leaves, and avocado.

FromThe Flavors of Asia” by Culinary Institute of America and Mai Pham

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  • that looks gorgeous! I’ll bet the leftover will be great in a wrap, too! unless it’s impossible to have leftovers with that fantastic dish!

  • Oh my! Yet another “must try”. I already even have everything in the house for that one. Thanks for answering my perpetual “hmmmm, wonder what we should have tonight” dilemma, Carolyn. And, per your warning, I’ll go easy on the cayenne. My cayenne calibration got shoved off-kilter for about a decade when I was using up a very old tin of the stuff. Finally went out and bought a fresh batch, and just about blew our heads off the first time I used it. Yowza! So *that’s* why they call the stuff “hot”.

  • That sounds incredible! I want that for dinner tonight.

  • that is a beautiful picture! TJ’s naan you say? I have the ingredients (except for the naan) too, even some delicious home made plain yogurt. Sounds delicious and easy, thanks for the recipe.

  • That looks fantastic! A delicious dish!



  • I don’t usually make Indian food, but this looks simple and beautiful, and it makes me want to go out and buy the spices and try it soon!

  • Wow, your photo is stunning! Absolutely the kind you want to reach through the computer screen and grab a bite. Now I’m going to go read the recipe. I like Indian food, so no doubt I’ll like it!

  • Carroll: You make me laugh, as always!
    FoodHoe: Plain yogurt would be most divine with this, I’m sure.
    Sophia: A wrap is an inspired way to eat this. As for leftovers? Should I confess how piggish my hubby and I were when I made this dish? So you see from the recipe, it serves EIGHT as an appetizer. Well, Meat Boy and I totally scarfed up every last bite. For us, it served only TWO! 😉

  • Oh delicious! A little spice in the salad. That’s really, really tasty. Love this idea.

  • I have some Trader Joes Naan in my freezer now. Love the stuff. Though you say this is “ridiculously easy” that’s exactly what I need on a weeknight after work.

  • this looks really delicious. I love Indian flavors, but I haven’t made it in a while.

  • Love this idea! I have TJ’s naan in the freezer right now and will just have to run out for the shrimp to pull this all together. Thanks for sharing!

  • Now that is a meal I’d want to come home to often.

  • Wow, the picture is wonderful – if it tastes half as good as it looks, I’ll love it. The colors really pop from the photo and of course anything with avocado is a must.

  • I can hardly believe that a dish that looks so good is so ‘ridiculously easy’! I would definitely make this as dinner rather than as an appetizer – it would certainly hit the spot. I am a still trying to de-wimp myself when it comes to spicy heat so I’ll have to proceed carefully with the cayenne at first!

  • Ah, that looks wonderful. My family is filled with shrimp fanatics, and even the little ones surprise me with their love for Indian spices. Where do you buy your shrimp locally?

  • Tangled Noodle: The avocado tames the spice a bit, but yes, go easy with the cayenne at first just to see how hot you really want the dish to be.

    Cheryl: If you’re looking to eat sustainably, Whole Foods is a great source for wild shrimp. The good stuff is definitely not cheap, but one bite will make you realize what you miss out on with all those other cheap, farmed frozen shrimp in the marketplace. Namely, flavor. Wild shrimp actually tastes like something — like shrimp.

  • That looks absolutely delightful! And not too difficult either. Thanks!

  • So, have you made this often enough yet to “tweak” it in any way, Carolyn? I threw a batch together tonight for the first time and, while spectacularly easy, as promised, the flavor actually didn’t quite “wow” us the way I expected. I’d forgotten that turmeric sometimes imparts more color than flavor, and I really wanted something to “crunch” a bit in opposition to the smooth avocado. We loved the lime/avocado/cilantro “notes” (oh, I am so not making it as a foodie poseur with this comment!) to which I’m thinking the addition of cumin would not be quite right, but am tempted to try a pinch of ground coriander the next time. Any other suggestions? For the “crunch” factor, I actually tossed in a handful of halved grapes with the last few bites, and, although that was an interesting and compatible addition flavor-wise, I still wanted to figure out that je ne sais quois (so far) that “some little something” that would have made us go “Wow!” Ideas, anyone??

  • That shrimp dish looks so good!

  • Carroll: I actually didn’t tweak it at all, because I loved the simple, yet satisfying combo of heat, tang, freshness, and creaminess. But yes, a dash of cumin might be wonderful to add. Even some toasted mustard seeds might be nice. And if you want more crunch, you probably could add some shredded cabbage dressed with a little oil, salt, and lime. You also could saute some onions with the shrimp until they were golden, but still a little crisp.

  • Well, I have a post-lunch leftover success to report! The secret ingredient my mouth was missing turned out to be thinly sliced celery. I added some of that, refreshed the mix with some additional lime and a lot more cilantro, and scarfed it all up still cold from the fridge. It was delicious! In retrospect, I have a feeling some of my original antipathy may have been related to warm avocado. I think my palate is so used to that being a chilled salad ingredient instead of a hot dish component, that I balked (inappropriately) at the entire thing. In any case, this turned into a really tasty and unusual salad — most definitely a “keeper” 🙂 Next time I won’t be quite such a chicken about the cayenne, and I might just try putting a pinch of cumin into the mix as well. We’ll be seeing this one again very soon!

  • Oh yay, Carroll! I’m glad you found a way to make it taste just like you hoped it would. Bon appetit! 😉

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