One of the things that makes many Sri Lankan curries unique is the fact that they roast their spices until they reach a dark hue. Roasting the spices intensify the flavors and give it a rich, almost smoky flavor. They call the curries made with these darkened spices black curries.
The original recipe used toasted whole spices before grinding them, but I’m guessing that more of you are likely to have these spices in ground form. So I adapted it as best I could; I think it worked out quite well.
You’ll notice that there aren’t any vegetables in this recipe to help add volume or bulk, so be sure to have at least one or two vegetables on the side as well as plenty of rice (rice recipes here).
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 Serrano pepper, sliced into thin rounds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, woody ends removed, and bruised
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1 pound shrimp
1 cup coconut milk
cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or large, wide frypan with a cover, over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and Serrano pepper and cook for one minute. Then, add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon, cayenne, clove, and cardamom and stir to mix well. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a couple shades darker and becomes very fragrant.
Add the garlic and ginger, mix, and cook for one more minute. Add the lemongrass, salt, paprika, and water, stir, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, on low heat until the sauce is hot and the shrimp are cooked through.
Top with cilantro leaves, if desired.
Serves four, with rice and at least one side.