Bunjal Shrimp is a favorite in our home. I make it at least once a month. I first started making it when I was newly married. At that time I didn’t eat shrimp but my husband was (and still is) a huge seafood fan. Bunjal (sometimes spelled Bhunjal)is the Guyanese term for any curry that is cooked down without any sauce. A dry curry of sorts. But I think that Bunjal is a distortion of the Bengali word Bhuna which means typically refers to cooking meat in a dry curry paste. This curry takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish (providing you don’t have to peel and devein the shrimp). It is the perfect quick and easy anytime dish and it is loaded with traditional madras curry flavors.
Preparing the Shrimp
For this recipe I am using jumbo shrimp (Guyanese and Caribbean people often refer to these as prawns). I live in Colorado, a land lock state so any shrimp we are buying “fresh” would have been previously frozen. So I prefer to buy frozen shrimp that is peeled and deveined. You can find many varieties of frozen shrimp in the seafood section of your supermarket. Take your pick. Before cooking shrimp I always add salt and some acid, here I am using lime juice. I let it sit for a minute or two then rinse it out thoroughly. Then I season with some dry herbs and spices and let it marinate while I work on my masala for the curry.
A Simple Curry Masala for Bunjal Shrimp
When making curry of any kind I always start by blending my onion and garlic and other fresh herbs, then adding curry powder and spices to make a masala. This is how my mom taught me to make curry and this is how I make curry to this day! This method of cooking curry creates a thick curry paste that clings to protein and adds a depth of flavor to any curry dish.
Sealing in the Flavor of the Bunjal Shrimp
No matter what kind of shrimp dish I am making, I always sear my shrimp first for 30 seconds to a minute before cooking any other ingredients. This bunjal shrimp curry is no exception. For this step I use a very hot pan and a little bit of fat. The goal here is not to fully cook the shrimp but just to lock in the flavor with a good sear.
Making the Bunjal Shrimp Curry
After searing the shrimp, remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside, then I add the curry masala to the pan and cook down to make a thick paste. You may add a tablespoon or two more oil to the pan before adding the masala if needed.
Once I achieve a rich dark color with the masala then I know it is time to add the shrimp back in. Because I partially cooked the shrimp while searing it, once the shrimp is added and mixed with the curry paste, I only let it cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat. At this stage if your curry is too dry you may add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and let it cook for a minute or two before removing from the heat.
Save it for Later
- 1 lb of Shrimp, deveined and peeled (with tail on)
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- ½ of a small yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons of curry powder (preferably madras curry powder)
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon of roasted ground cumin or geera
- Pinch of black pepper or cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon of garam masala
- ¾ teaspoon of salt or salt to taste
- ¼ to ½ cup of water (optional)
- Juice of a lime
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Add shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt and the juice of one whole lime to a large bowl. Mix together well, then wash thoroughly with cold water
- Next, season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of roasted ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon of garam masala and a pinch of black pepper or cayenne pepper, and set aside to marinate
- Next add onion and ¼ cup of water to a blender cup or food processor and blend until smooth
- Then pour into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic, ½ teaspoon of ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon of garam masala and ¼ teaspoon of salt
- Next, mix together well to form a paste and set aside
- Then add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan on high heat
- When the oil is hot add the seasoned shrimp and sear for about 30 seconds on each side
- Then remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside
- In the same pan, add the curry masala and cook down until all the water evaporates and a thick paste forms. You may add another tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the masala, if needed. Once the masala cooks down into a paste, it will be rich and dark in color
- You may add ¼ to ½ cup of water to the paste and cook down until a thick sauce forms
- Then add the sautéed shrimp to the sauce and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, but be careful not to over cook the shrimp
- Remove from the heat and enjoy with your favorite sides
Do not cook the shrimp for more that 5 minutes total or it will over cook and be tough.
Sauteing the shrimp first seals in the flavor and prevents it from having a boiled taste.
Love shrimp curry? Try my coconut shrimp curry recipe. It is the perfect base for any combination of vegetables