No matter what food is cooked in it or what spices are added, coconut milk never loses its distinct sweet flavor. Instead, it enriches all the other flavors. In this dish from Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast of India, Shrimp Poached in Coconut Milk with Fresh Herbs (Yerra Moolee), fresh juicy shrimp are gently poached in herb-laced coconut milk.
Russ happened across this recipe from Epicurious by Julie Sahni, an award-winning cooking teacher, cookbook author and former executive chef of two Indian restaurants in New York City. Ms. Sahni is the author of the seminal Classic Indian Cooking, winner of the André Simon commendation, now in its 42nd printing, and where this recipe hails from. We’re glad she is now on our culinary radar.
The spicing here is intentionally kept very subtle, so that the natural flavors of the shrimp and the coconut milk can take center stage and be relished to their fullest. Yerra Moolee, with its shimmering light golden sauce, can be made to taste much hotter than this recipe by increasing the quantity of green chilies. That being said…
The type of green chilies is not specified in the list of ingredients and could range anywhere from mild anahiem peppers to hot habaneros. As heat-loving aficionados, we used two serrano chiles which are similar to the jalapeño in its look, but are much hotter. On the Scoville heat index, the serrano pepper can be between 10,000 and 25,000 (whereas a habanero can be 100,000 to 350,000!) So bear in mind when choosing your weapon, er, I mean chilies.
This dish has a lot of gravy and needs to be served with rice. Best, of course, is plain cooked rice; then all the flavors can be enjoyed without any interference from the pilaf spices. With just the two of us eating, I cut the volume of shrimp in half to only one pound, and reduced the quantity of most of the other ingredients by 25%—except, the green chilies—we like it spicy! In the end, it wasn’t real spicy at all with the coconut milk balancing the heat of the peppers.
To make ahead like I did, follow Steps 2 and 3, let the sauce cool before refrigerating overnight. The next day, reheat the sauce, prepare the shrimp and follow Step 4.
- 2 pounds shrimp, preferably large to medium (about 28–32 shrimp per pound)
- 7 tablespoons light vegetable oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed fresh ginger root
- 2 green chilies, or more, to taste, seeded and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 3 cups coconut milk (do not use lite)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- Shell and devein shrimp. Wash them thoroughly, and set aside. (Or buy already cleaned and deveined.)
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, and add onions. Over high heat, fry the onions until they turn golden brown (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, ginger, and chilies, and fry for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add turmeric and coriander, stir rapidly for 15 seconds, and add coconut milk and salt. Cook the sauce, uncovered, until it thickens (about 10 minutes). Stir frequently to ensure that the sauce does not stick and burn.
- Add shrimp, mix, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 5–7 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Do not overcook the shrimp, or they will become tough and chewy. Check for salt, stir in minced cilantro leaves, and serve.
Ladle over steamed rice and garnish with a bit more chopped cilantro.