Finger Food


 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.
  • Enjoy.

21 thoughts on “Finger Food

  1. yum! Fun to see you back again 🙂 Agreed that finger food is a more intimate way of eating. And what you say about missing school is universal–I remember the same feelings and I see it in my girls now. Sick days aren’t that bad 😉

  2. When I was a kid, my favourite meals were ones you can politely eat with your fingers… I used to ask for spare ribs and corn on the cob for my birthday every year. I didn’t actually like ribs, I just liked eating with my fingers. As an adult, I still take any chance I get to use my fingers to eat. 🙂 Even better if you can share a dish with someone else and eat with your fingers… much greater social intimacy, much more up close and personal with the food itself too. I

    I’m hungry for shrimp now and it’s 8:30 in the morning. I know tamarind chutney is not *easy* to come by in these parts, do you get yours somewhere local?

    • I completely agree with you. I believe food tastes far better tasted from the tips of ones finger. 🙂

      You can get the tamarind chutney from Dominion at Blackmarsh Rd or you could try Taste East on Allandale Rd. Let me know if you can’t find one. I may do a recipe post on tamarind chutney. So easy.

  3. I’ve had typhoid twice so I know what you mean. I suppose I’m one of those weird ones who always wanted to go to school even when my parents thought I should stay home.

    Love finger foods, love shrimps even more.

  4. These shrimp look so delicious – thank you for sharing the recipe! I love your story of your mother feeding you with her fingers and you doing the same for your daughter. I hope she will learn both cultures and transition effortessly between them.

  5. I too also love your story… and can fully understand how wonderful it is to eat with your fingers. I’m English living in New Zealand and I was brought up to eat with cutlery, and in turn have taught my daughter to do the same, however she would love to forget all that and use her fingers all of the time! and she’s now twelve. she loves it when we have finger foods or meals that you can eat with your fingers, she says that cutlery is awkward. I wonder if they have taramind chutney here, I will have to investigate 🙂

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