When I was growing up in Bombay, this was a very common lunch dish at our house. Once Barkha and I had kids and I began to serve it in our own home, I quickly realized why it’s such a great family meal. Adults appreciate the excellent taste of the mild, tender cauliflower and sweet, toothsome shrimp simmered in coconut milk with lots of aromatic flavors. Kids just really enjoy it because it’s yummy and different without being particularly spicy. And everyone agrees that it makes the kitchen smell delectable while it’s cooking. My mom taught me the trick of simmering the throwaway parts of the shrimp—the heads and shells—to quickly make a really flavorful stock. (If you’re pressed for time, though, you can use peeled shrimp in place of the head-on shrimp called for here, and use 3 cups of fish stock instead of making stock from the shrimp heads and tails.)
We always eat this with steamed white rice or “Beryl’s Sunday Lunch” Basmati Rice to soak up all the delicious coconut curry broth.
If you have leftovers, use them for breakfast the next morning. Place the curry in a wide pot and simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Serve with fried eggs and crusty bread.
1. Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp, reserving both. Devein the shrimp and rinse them well. Season the shrimp with salt and refrigerate.
2. Place the shrimp heads and shells in a medium saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 3 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Strain the stock and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin, and pepper and cook until the garlic is lightly colored and the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the reserved stock, the chile, tamarind paste, and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add the cauliflower and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Season with salt. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the cauliflower is just beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and discard the serrano, if desired. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.
Changing It Up
Sometimes I make this with fish instead of shrimp, using one 4- to 5-ounce (113- to 142-gram) halibut or fluke steak per person. (The steaks come from cutting a whole fish crosswise into 1/2 - to 1-inch-thick slices. It’s a very pretty cut, resulting in a nice oblong shape with a bone in the middle and the skin ringing the steak.) Use fish stock or plain water in place of the shrimp stock; the fish’s bones and skin add depth and richness to the curry, just as the shrimp shells do. Add the fish steaks where the recipe instructs you to add the shrimp and cook until the fish is opaque and flakes easily.
Excerpted from Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla by Floyd Cardoz (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2016. Photographs by Lauren Volo.