Nyonya shrimp and pineapple curry is a wonderfully flavorsome Malaysian curry. Slightly adapted to the Western kitchen, this version is quick, easy and delicious.
For anyone who has visited here regularly, you may remember that I was in Malaysia last summer visiting friends who moved there. I had so many delicious dishes while we were there that I came back with lots of things I wanted to re-create.
Of course life got in the way – particularly the arrival of our little one – and I’ve only managed to share asam laksa. Well kind of chicken satay too but as I admitted, I had already developed that recipe before we went. Finally here’s something else, and believe me this Nyonya shrimp and pineapple curry (Udang Masak Lemak Nenas in Malay) was worth the wait.
It’s got the most delicious spicy, coconuty sauce with a little pineapple sweetness, all smothering delicious shrimp/prawns and chunks of pineapple. You might call it a sweet and spicy curry, verging on a laksa. However you want to think of it, be sure you have delicious in there.
I first made it a couple months ago but have been holding off sharing as I knew it would be perfect for today’s Fish Friday Foodies theme which is fish and seafood with a bit of spice. If I’m honest, I chose the theme, as I’m hosting, partly with this dish in mind. I thought this dish deserved a bit of a highlight. I was also interested to see what everyone else would come up with on the theme and am excited to look at all the recipes.
A little background to Nyonya cuisine
First of all, let me tell you a little more of the background to this Nyonya shrimp and pineapple curry. If you haven’t heard the term Nyonya before, it is a Malay term that’s now commonly used to refer to Perenakan cuisine, but it literally means ‘auntie’ or grandmother. Perenakans were the early Chinese immigrants to Malaysia who developed a unique cuisine incorporating the new ingredients they found in the Malay peninsular, such as coconut milk, with traditional Chinese techniques.
These days, it’s a cuisine on many a foodie agenda visiting Malaysia, with Malakka on the coast often being considered the home to the most authentic. As the former major port in the area, it was where many immigrants arrived and, in some cases, stayed. I was lucky enough to visit Malakka and eat in a couple Nyonya eateries, like the one above.
Much as I enjoyed the food, I wish I’d been able to try more and know more before I chose (I wasn’t fully prepped on my research and descriptions were sketchy). True, I would have found it easier without a toddler to try to accommodate in my choices – a number of the dishes are spicy – but I should of course be thankful for what I managed. Plus I can at least try other things at home, like this.
My adapted Nyonya shrimp and pineapple curry
I will admit now this version of Nyonya shrimp and pineapple curry is not totally true to the original. I have adapted it to be both a bit quicker and easier and to use ingredients more readily available in Western kitchens. More authentic versions will use galangal rather than ginger and shrimp paste as well as a couple other things. Soy sauce and tinned pineapple are not generally used but I think they work well to get a similar taste in a shorter time.
The juice from tinned pineapple helps give a more intense pineapple flavor without a long, slow cook. Plus there’s no chopping up fresh pineapple. As long as you have a food processor or blender (and even without), this is a surprisingly quick dish to make, but so full of flavor you’d think you had been cooking for ages.
This shrimp and pineapple curry is so flavorful and fresh-tasting but quick to make. It’s one of those wonderful dishes that is quick enough for a busy mid-week meal but is also great when you want something a bit special. Be ready for a little bit of spice in this one, but a whole lot of deliciousness. It’s a fantastic dish you’ll want to have again and again.
Nonya shrimp and pineapple curry
For spice paste
- 2 shallots large, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger approx 1.5in/5cm, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp raw cashews
- 2 tbsp minced lemongrass (I used pre-prepared)
- 2 hot red chilis , top removed, deseeded and roughly chopped, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
For rest of dish
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 16 oz pineapple chunks in pineapple juice 2x 227g/8oz can/tins
- 3/4 cup coconut milk 180ml
- 3/4 lb shrimp 350g prawns, weight without shell, fresh or frozen and defrosted de-veigned
- Put all of the ingredients for the spice paste - shallots, garlic, ginger, cashews, lemongrass, chilis, turmeric and soy sauce - in a food processor or blender and puree until you have a fairly smooth, blended paste.
- Warm the oil in a pan and fry the paste for around 5 min, stirring regularly so it doesn't stick.
- Add the pineapple chunks and 1/2cup/120ml of the juice from the cans. Stir and cook for around another 5min then add the coconut milk.
- Stir and cook for around 1-2min to warm through then add the shrimp/prawns. Simmer until the shrimp have changed color - they are opaque when cooked - and serve over rice.
Try these other seafood curries:
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