Not knowing where to start, I figured, I'll Google it and see if anything strikes my fancy. Lo and behold, I found a recipe for Sri Lankan Red Shrimp Curry.
This will only be my 2nd foray into Sri Lankan food. You can read about my first experience here. The stand out dish from the previous meal was the shrimp curry. So, I jumped on the chance to make this dish.
I started with a trip to my local spice store (I can't tell you how glad I am to have a store nearby that sells a wide range of spices and herbs). When I returned home, I realized that I didn't buy a critical ingredient, Rampe Leaf.
The information I found says, Also known as pandan leaf. Almost every kitchen garden in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand boasts a pandanus plant, the leaves of which are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. A strip of leaf about 10 cm (4 in) long is dropped into the pot each time rice is cooked, to perfume it. Two or three strips are simmered with curry.
At first I had no idea where to find this, but with a quick Google search, I found a store 5 minutes from my place. I didn't even know it was there. Or rather, I saw it and never knew what the store sold.
I was given the option of choosing fresh leaf or dried. I went with fresh. But, I wasn't sure exactly how to use it. So...I did what came naturally. I tied it in a knot and threw it in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. If you have experience with this plant and know how should be used, please feel free to let me know.
Sri Lankan Red Shrimp Curry
* 750 g small raw prawns
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
* 1 small cinnamon stick
* 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
* 3-4 curry leaves
* 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised (or 2 strips of lemon rind)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
* 2 teaspoons paprika
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups coconut milk
* 1 strip of daun pandan or rampe leaf
* good squeeze lemon juice
Wash prawns and remove heads but leave shells on (in Sri Lanka prawns are cooked with the shell on for better flavour).
Put all ingredients, except lemon juice, into a saucepan and bring slowly to simmering point.
Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until onions are soft.
Add lemon juice and stir. Taste and add more salt
Verdict: The dish was quite hot. I'm sure it would be easy to tone down with sweet paprika, rather than spicy. I followed the recipe quite closely and left the shells on the shrimp. But, I'd have to say that it wasn't the most appetizing that way. The issue is that you have to peel off the shells, which can be a problem when dealing with tumeric. You can read about my last experience with tumeric here.
Not unlike other curries I have made, I do not find that they actually have the same consistency and sweetness as curries I have tried in Thai or Indian restaurants. It was pretty good on the first night, but I wasn't very interested in it as leftovers. R enjoyed it, but found it not very filling.
One theory I have about the problem with my curry is the use of canned coconut milk. Through an email exchange with Dharm, I learned that fresh coconut milk come from adding a little bit of hot water to freshly grated coconut. This is squeezed to extract milk. Then, a little more hot water is added for a second squeeze. One grated coconut should give you about 2-3 cups milk.
Other than the coconut milk theory, I don't know what else could be wrong. I followed the recipe very closely. So, I don't think I would make this again, but I would like to figure out more about Fenugreek and Rampe Leaf. If you have any good recipes, please share! I will continue in my search for a good curry recipe and will keep an eye out for more Fenugreek recipes. I can't wait to see the roundup!