Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shrimp Jalfrezi

I don't remember what my first experience with Indian food was, but over the years chicken jalfrezi has become a stand by. I was thrilled to find a shrimp version of this favorite in an Indian cookbook I had purchased. Upon perusing the ingredients list, I became even more excited. The list was short...and the cook time even shorter. I had high, high hopes of recreating the dish in my own kitchen.

adapted from The Everything Indian Cookbook, by Monica Bhide.

serves 4

The Ingredients:
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 dried chilies, broken
3 Serrano chilies, slit down the side and seeded
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
1 large tomato, deseeded and diced
2 medium bell peppers, deseeded and diced
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, julienned
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
table salt to taste

The Process:
In a medium-sized skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the cumin seeds; when they begin to sizzle, add the red and green chilies, onion, diced tomato, ginger, and bell peppers in quick succession. Saute on high heat for about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato puree and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the shrimp, turmeric, and salt; saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. The vegetables will still have a slight crunch to them. Serve hot.

My Modifications:
Due to a difference in heat tolerances between myself and other diners, I reduced both the Serrano pepper and dried chilies to two each. The dried red chilies I had on hand were New Mexico chilies, which are fairly mild to began with. For the bell peppers, I used one red and one green. And lacking a red onion, I substituted a yellow onion instead.

The Review:
I was a little let down by this version of a Jalfrezi. Tomato and bell pepper dominated the flavors, and the heat was far, far too mild for this dish. Aside from the subtle ginger flavor, the dish could have passed for a creole stew. The rich balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent that Indian cuisine is renowned for was sadly lacking.

That being said, the dish was delicious. And you really can't beat the short amount of time it takes to prepare. It was just far from what I had hoped for. Next time around I believe I will take my cue from the recipe listed at

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