This pineapple shrimp curry is packed with sweet and spicy flavor. It's slightly adapted from a traditional Malaysian Nyonya curry to be that bit quicker and easier, but just as delicious.
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When friends of ours moved to Malaysia a few years ago, I was excited about the prospect of visiting. Food was, of course, high on my agenda when I managed to get a trip set up. And it didn't disappoint.
I don't think I appreciated before I was due to go quite how broad a range of food I'd find. I knew about some typical dishes like satay, nasi goreng and laksa, but admittedly not a huge amount more. But, I did some homework so I could try my best to hunt down a good range.
Thankfully, my host was a bit of a foodie as well and helped point me in the right direction of a range of markets, hawker stalls and more. I soon got a feel for both the range of international dishes you could find, as well as regional Malaysian cuisine like asam laksa.
A trip to Malakka helped me explore a very local cuisine, as well, often referred to as Nyonya. This is where the original version of this curry, Udang Masak Lemak Nenas in Malay, originates.
What is Nyonya cuisine?
If you haven't heard the term Nyonya before, it is a Malay term that literally means 'auntie' or 'grandmother' but meant as a term of respect. These days, it's commonly used to refer to Perenakan cuisine, which is an early fusion cuisine found in Malaysia.
Perenakans were the early Chinese immigrants to the area that is now Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. They developed a unique cuisine incorporating the new ingredients they found in the Malay peninsular and surrounding area, such as coconut milk, with traditional Chinese ones, as well as combining techniques.
The result is a range of dishes that combine spice with herbal, tangy and aromatic.
While it may not be a cuisine as well known by name in the West, it has become very popular in Southeast Asia. And you may be aware of it without realizing as dishes like laksa are generally considered Nyonya cuisine.
There are many more, though, that are worth exploring, and it varies by area, too. For some, Malakka on the coast is considered the home to some of the most authentic Nyonya cuisine.
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 a couple Nyonya eateries on my trip there, like the one above. But I do hope to return to try even more (and this time without a young child in tow to try to accommodate).
My adapted Nyonya pineapple and shrimp curry
As mentioned up-front, this curry is not totally true to the original. Nyonya dishes typically take time to make, while here I have adapted it to be a bit quicker. I have also used some ingredients more readily available in Western kitchens.
Here's a quick breakdown of the switches I have made in case you want to make it a little closer to the original:
- You typically use fresh pineapple for this and cook it down for a while first. I, instead, used tinned pineapple and some of the juice to speed the process up (and be quite a bit easier).
- I have used ginger in place of galangal - both are relatively close though galangal is a little more peppery and sharper in flavor. If you have galangal, great, but ginger is generally easier to find.
- Fish sauce instead of shrimp paste - both have that slightly fishy saltiness that gives a slight 'tang'. If you have or can find shrimp paste, it is worth using, just use a little less.
- Macadamia or raw cashews in place of the traditional candlenuts, which are harder to find.
- I've probably used more shrimp than you traditionally would but personally I like it a little more 'full'.
Including some of the juice from the tinned pineapple helps give a more intense pineapple flavor without the traditional long, slow cook. And the prep is a whole lot easier, too.
A quick cook
In terms of cooking, you follow the laksa-like method of making a paste with the chili and aromatics. You fry this first to bring out all the aromatic flavors. Then, add the coconut milk and pineapple to form the base of the sauce. Lastly, cook the shrimp in the sauce just long enough to cook them through.
The end result is a delicious coconut-y sauce with a little pineapple sweetness. There's a touch of sour in there and a good spice kick too (though you can dial it down if you prefer).
As long as you have a food processor or blender to help with the paste (and even without), it all comes together really quickly. True, it may not have quite as much depth of flavor as the original, but it is certainly still delicious.
This shrimp and pineapple curry is flavorful, fresh-tasting and 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. It's a fantastic dish you'll want to have again and again.
Try these other seafood curries:
- Goan fish curry
- Thai green curry shrimp
- Kid-friendly salmon curry
- Plus get more seafood recipes and Southeast Asian recipes in the archives.
Pineapple shrimp curry
For spice paste
- 2 shallots large, peeled and roughly chopped (giving about ¾ cup)
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger 1tbsp is approx 1.5in/5cm, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon macadamia nuts or raw cashews
- 2 tablespoon minced lemongrass (I used pre-prepared)
- 2 red chilis top removed, deseeded and roughly chopped - suggest hot but as suits taste, can add more
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce or half quantity of shrimp paste (belecan)
For rest of dish
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 16 oz pineapple chunks in pineapple juice (16oz is 2x8oz cans)
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ¾ lb raw shrimp prawns, weight without shell, fresh or frozen and defrosted, de-veined
- Put all of the ingredients for the spice paste - shallots, garlic, ginger, macadamia/cashews, lemongrass, chilis, turmeric and fish sauce/shrimp paste - 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 ½cup/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.
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This post was originally shared in May 2016 and has been updated, primarily with new photos.