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Masala Shrimp

On a trip to Auckland to visit my cousins, we decided to rent out a bach (a beach house) and spend Christmas at the beach. We grilled all week and ate a lot of ice cream, as one does in New Zealand. Because shrimp cooks quickly, it became the appetizer of choice to eat while our food cooked on the grill. This dish brings back fond memories of that special holiday.

The Flavor Approach

The heat from the cayenne and spices in the garam masala are amplified by the addition of the lime juice.

Lime juice also helps denature the proteins in the shrimp, which cook even faster once heated, so do not over-marinate the shrimp, or they will get rubbery.

Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020

nik sharma masala shrimp

Courtesy of Nik Sharma
 1 lb raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
 1-in piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
 2 tbsp tomato paste
 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
 1 tsp garam masala
 ½ tsp ground cayenne
 ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
 fine sea salt
 2 tbsp minced chives, for garnish
 1 lime, quartered for serving

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, pat dry with clean paper towels, and place in a large bowl.


Combine 1 tbsp of the oil and the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, lime juice, garam masala, cayenne, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the shrimp, season with salt, and fold to coat evenly. Let sit for 5 minutes.


Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a medium stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp with the liquids in the bowl to the hot oil and sauté until they turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. The tomato paste and shrimp might make it tricky to determine the pink color, so cut a piece of the shrimp in half; the flesh inside should be completely tender and white in addition to the outer surface and tail turning pink.


Transfer the shrimp to a serving plate. Garnish with the chives. Serve immediately with the lime quarters on the side.