Bengali Shrimp Recipe

Photo Credit: Anita Jaisinghani

Kolkata, previously recognized as Calcutta and the capital of the British Empire in India, is renowned for its fish specialties. Local fishermen pull myriad varieties of seafood out of the Bay of Bengal, on the east coast of Bengali. The Bengalis are known for their pungent fish dishes, wide use of mustard, and a penchant for adding a touch of jaggery at the end. Another key ingredient, mustard oil, is widely used in curries and stews. It has an almost horseradish-like aroma. But don’t be put off by its strong taste — when used correctly, it adds a tremendous depth of flavor to foods.  

Bengali Shrimp Recipe

Makes 6 servings | 45 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons mustard oil
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8-10 kari leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1 tablespoon ginger purée
  • 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jaggery
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp with no tail
  • chopped cilantro or herbs for garnish

Heat up the mustard oil and ghee in a saucepan and pop the cumin seeds in it. Lower the heat and add the kari leaves and minced onions. Cook just until the onions are translucent. This will take around 8-10 minutes. Then add the ginger purée, tomatoes, chili powder, turmeric, salt, and jaggery. Simmer for another 4-5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and continue cooking until the mixture comes together as a wet masala. Just before serving, gently add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes or just until the shrimp is cooked. Turn the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Notes & Variations

  • Sometimes called curry leaves but not what curry powder is made of, kari leaves are intensely aromatic with flavor notes of pine and lemon. They are delicious when fried or added to soups or stews.
  • Serve this shrimp curry with basmati rice or a roti.
  • Substitute jaggery with brown sugar or plain sugar.
  • Replace shrimp with one-inch pieces of firm fish.

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