I was about eight when I had typhoid. I languished just the same as thousands of other children with typhoid – it wasn’t unusual at all. Childhood illnesses are unavoidable. I remember most of it – being bed-ridden, pale and weak without appetite, yet feeling somehow privileged for not having to go to school. I did not like going to school.
Funnily enough I have fond memories of my bed-ridden illness – Baba bringing me new story books to read and Ma feeding me lunch everyday. They did everything to make me feel better. The books came in a great variety faster than I could read and the same lunch of rice and fish stew was finger-fed by Ma everyday. Ma mashed up rice and vegetables from the stew, scoped it up with her fingers, and efficiently filled my reluctant mouth.
I often reminisce about those days – getting fed by Ma with her fingers – when I feed Saira with mine. Picking up rice or whatever she has on her plate with my fingers and filling her bird-like open mouth completes me in ways indescribable. It makes me feel right and reassured when I repeat after my mother. Saira often forgets her fork and explores her food with her fingers until she is reminded. And when I remind her of the fork I feel a slight pinch in my heart. Eating with your fingers is not deemed mannerly in this part of the world. My daughter will probably never learn to eat with her fingers like a Bengali – efficiently pulling the bones out of a fish, mashing up rice and dal, and scoping up soupy, stewed food with her fingers and putting them right to her mouth, relishing every bite. Perhaps.
These tamarind shrimps are sweet, tangy, salty and spicy and they are more efficiently eaten with ten fingers. A knife and a fork would most definitely be unmannerly here.
Shrimps in Tamarind Sauce
- Shrimp: 2 pounds.
- Garlic: 4 cloves, finely chopped
- Tomato: 1/4 cup finely chopped
- Smoked paprika: 1 tsp
- Thai red chilli: 1 chopped (use half if you can’t handle much heat)
- Tamarind chutney: 1 cup
- Water: 1/4 cup
- Sugar: 1 tsp
- Salt: 1/2 tsp
- Wash shrimp and pat dry with paper towel to soak some of the water. Season with salt.
- Heat 2 bps oil in a pan on semi high heat and stir fry the shrimp for 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp in a bowl and set aside.
- In the same pan over medium heat add 1 tbsp oil and the garlic and chilli. Fry for a min, add the chopped tomato and the smoked paprika and continue to fry till the tomatoes loose their shape and start turning mushy. Add the tamarind chutney, sugar and 1/4 cup water. Turn down heat, cover and let cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the shrimp at this stage. stir to combine in sauce, adjust water in gravy, add 1 tbsp water to the gravy if needed. The sauce should generously coat the shrimps.
- Cover and cook for 2 more minutes, or until the sauce becomes slightly dense and stick to the shrimp.
- Serve immediately.