Tiger Shrimp with Onions
The word for “shrimp” in Bengali is chingri, so this is a chingri jhal, or stir-fry with shrimp. The base of the dish is mustard oil flavored with whole spices as well as with ginger and garlic. As in many Bangladeshi dishes, this flavored oil is used to stir-fry a generous pile of finely chopped onion. The shrimp go in once the onion has cooked to a softened, aromatic, slightly sweet mass. When cooked, they look like pink jewels dotting the onion. The whole dish takes about twenty minutes’ cooking time.
In rainy season in Bangladesh, this would most often be made with freshwater shrimp. During the rest of the year, when the rivers are less swollen and dangerous and the Bay of Bengal is less turbulent, tiger shrimp from the sea, fished in the tidal waters of Bangladesh’s great rivers (or, these days, more commonly harvested from fish farms), would be the shrimp of choice. Use any kind of medium-size shrimp.
Serves2 to 3
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, hot & spicy, savory
- ¾ to 1 pound medium shrimp, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons mustard oil, or substitute vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon nigella seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 stick cinnamon or cassia
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
- 1½ cups packed thinly sliced onions
- 3 green cayenne chiles, slit lengthwise (for less heat, scrape out the pith and seeds)
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Coriander sprigs (optional)
- Lime wedges
Rinse, peel, and devein the shrimp. Rinse again and set aside. (If your shrimp are large rather than medium, you may want to cut them in half.) Place the other ingredients near your stove top.
Set a wok or a large heavy skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, toss in the fennel, nigella, and cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick, and stir-fry for a minute or so, until the spices release their aroma. Toss in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the onions and stir-fry for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and cook slowly for another 5 minutes, or until the onions brown a little.
Add the green chiles and stir-fry for about a minute, then raise the heat to high, add the water, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. (The dish can be made ahead to this point and set aside at room temperature for an hour. Begin again by adding ¼ cup water to the pan, placing it over high heat, and stirring occasionally until the onions are hot, then proceed.)
Add the salt and the shrimp and stir-fry until the shrimp have all changed color, 3 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your pan, the size of the shrimp, and whether or not you began with hard-frozen shrimp.
Turn out onto a plate, remove the cinnamon stick if you wish, and serve, topped, if you wish, with sprigs of coriander. Put out a plate of lime wedges.
Serve with rice, a small plate of crisp sliced cucumber or white radish (daikon), and a dish to provide a contrast to the sweetness of the shrimp and onion.
2005 Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid