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Tandoori Shrimp

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Suvir does a great job of taking Indian street food and making it appeal to everyone. This is a spectacular example of this, a combination tandoor dish and salad that would shine no matter where it was served. Suvir says he uses colossal shrimp for this recipe because smaller shrimp would overcook in the time it takes for the tandoori paste to turn into a delicious glaze. That makes sense to me, though I have since tried the recipe with smaller shrimp and the results, while less glorious, were good.

As Suvir does not use food coloring, his tandoori dishes do not have the bright red color of those in most Indian restaurants. On the other hand, they have amazing flavor, even when made in a conventional oven or on a grill. Suvir serves this with  the Crispy Okra Salad, but it would also go beautifully with the Chickpea Raita.

NotesTandoors are top-loading, wood-fired, clay ovens used across India and, with slight variation in construction and name, in many parts of southwest Asia. Breads like naan are hand stretched and slapped against the sides of the tandoor, where they stick until they’re done, minutes later. Marinated meats and vegetables are skewered on long metal poles and stood in the center of the oven, where the intense, dry heat roasts them quickly.

I thought it was hard enough to handle a real wok in Charles Phan’s kitchen or to stand next to James Boyce’s smelting furnace of a flattop, but tandoors are in a class by themselves—neither Suvir nor I could even hope to cook in the one at his restaurant. His co-chef Hemant Mathur, who handles all the tandoor cooking, just smiled amusedly when I tried to see how long I could hold my hand over it—microseconds. Hemant is so well acclimated he deals with it unfazed.

But it’s the often spicy and frequently yogurt-based marinade used for foods headed to the tandoor that have given way to the looser and more colloquial usage of “tandoori,” generally referring to dishes that are marinated in a tandoori style—like this Tandoori Shrimp or Kerry Simon’s Salmon Tandoori. And though the heat of the tandoor imparts a distinctive flavor, anyone can produce tandoori-style foods at home.

Grilled Tandoori Prawns: When you’re ready to cook (Step 3 above), start a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be very hot—you should barely be able to hold your hand over the core of it—and set the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes on each side; let rest 15 minutes off the grill, then brush with the butter and grill 5 to 10 more minutes, until cooked through.

4 Servings

Cooking Methodroasting

CostSplurge

Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationlow carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentgrill, mortar and pestle, spice grinder

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturesavory, spiced, tangy

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons toasted chickpea flour (besan) or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups plain yogurt, drained over a bowl in a cheesecloth-lined strainer or a coffee filter for at least 1 hour (if longer, refrigerate)
  • 12 colossal (about 2 pounds) shrimp, shelled
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 lemon, halved

Instructions

  1. If you’re using whole cumin, toast the seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Grind 2 teaspoons of the cumin seeds to a powder in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle and set aside.

  2. Stir together the ginger, garlic, flour, ground cumin, pepper, Garam Masala, and turmeric in a bowl large enough to hold the shrimp. Stir in the lemon juice and then the yogurt, a bit at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition. Add the shrimp and toss to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours; overnight is fine.

  3. Preheat the oven to 550°F, or as near that temperature as you can get it. Put the shrimp in a single layer on a rack in a foil-lined baking pan, sprinkle with salt, and roast 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes, then brush with the melted butter and roast another 10 minutes, until cooked through.

  4. Arrange the shrimp on a platter, sprinkle with the reserved toasted cumin seeds and squeeze the lemon juice over all. Serve hot.

  5. 3. Preheat the oven to 550°F, or as near that temperature as you can get it. Put the shrimp in a single layer on a rack in a foil-lined baking pan, sprinkle with salt, and roast 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes, then brush with the melted butter and roast another 10 minutes, until cooked through.

  6. 4. Arrange the shrimp on a platter, sprinkle with the reserved toasted cumin seeds and squeeze the lemon juice over all. Serve hot.

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