The joke goes that an astronaut getting out of the space shuttle and setting foot on the newly discovered planet gets greeted with chai and samosa by the friendly Indian chaiwallah (tea shopkeeper) who wonders what took the rest of humanity so long to get there. As with most jokes, there’s a kernel of truth there. Setting aside fast-food chains of the kind that offer pizzas or burgers, Indian cuisine is one of the few cuisines that are available no matter which part of the globe you travel to (or universe, apparently).
Indian cuisine is almost as diverse as its population, a product of its storied history of being colonized by several nations and being the source of many spices and aromatics. Which makes it pretty challenging to pick just one dish to showcase. Perhaps we can wander “off the beaten path” of Indian cuisine, away from the chai and samosas (sorry, chaiwallah). With it being summer and a return of temperatures that allow for grilling, perhaps a dish that can be prepped quickly and thrown on the grill (or in the oven)? Tandoori shrimp fits that bill. While traditionally tandoori dishes are to be cooked in the tandoor (clay oven), the grill or conventional oven is a perfectly good substitute. The recipe involves marinating the shrimp in yogurt and a mix of spices. Yogurt is a critical ingredient as it tenderizes the protein and helps bind the spices to the protein. The shrimp can be swapped out for any protein (chicken, beef, lamb or pork) or a mixture of grillable cheese (like paneer or halloumi) and vegetables. Double the amount of marinade for the same weight for other proteins. Grilling times will vary per the protein.
Tandoori Prawns (Shrimp)
Shrimp, peeled and deveined – 1 lb (about 20—24, large sized)
Bell peppers – 2 (1 each of a different color), cubed
Onion – 1 large, cubed
Lemon – 1, quartered
Fresh Ginger – 2” knob
Garlic – 6 cloves
Plain yogurt (Greek preferred)– ½ cup
Turmeric powder— ½ tsp + ½ tsp, divided
Cumin powder – 1 tbs
Coriander powder– ½ tbs
Cayenne powder– ½ tsp
Clove powder – ½ tsp
Cinnamon powder – ½ tsp
Ground Black pepper — ½ tsp
Fresh cilantro, washed, destemmed and finely diced – ½ cup
Salt – to taste
Blender or mortar pestle
- Soak Bamboo skewers. This prevents them from catching fire on the grill or in the oven.
- Add salt and ½ tsp turmeric to a bowl of water and rinse the shrimp.
- Pat shrimp dry.
- Make a ginger-garlic paste by pounding both together in the mortar pestle or by blending in a blender. Do not make it a fine paste, keep the consistency a little coarse and chunky.
- Prepare marinade by adding the ginger-garlic paste and all the other ingredients listed under “marinade.”
- Marinate the shrimp in the marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes. Can be allowed to marinate overnight. Must be kept in refrigerator.
- Fire up the grill to high heat or preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Thread the marinated shrimp alternating with peppers and onions.
- The shrimp is done on the grill (10 minutes or so) when it turns opaque and is slightly charred.
- For oven, bake for 10 – 15 minutes, then turn setting on broil and broil (on middle rack) for less than 5 minutes to get a char. Note that ovens have different heat intensity and shrimp cooks quickly, so check halfway into cook time to prevent burning.
- Have with a light summery salad.
- Wrap it: requires naan and tzatziki. Take grilled shrimp, peppers and onions off the skewer and wrap in naan with a good drizzle of tzatziki.
- Serve over rice pilaf with tzatziki.
Note: Image is of skewers pre-grilling. The grilled skewers disappeared before your recipe curator could take a picture!
Recipe and photo credit: Vinola V. Munyon