Brazilian Curry With Shrimp (Xinxim)
As you may know, much of Brazil’s cuisine is steeped in African traditions, especially in the Bahian region of the country. Today’s recipe is a warming, flavorful shrimp curry, featuring traditional Bahian ingredients, like peanuts, okra, and coconut milk. The resulting taste is not dissimilar to the creamy, spicy curries of Thailand. Brazilian xinxim with shrimp is delightful on its own, but it is especially good served over fluffy, white rice.
What is Xinxim?
Xinxim is an African term used to describe a stew. It is different from a moqueca, which has a distinct red coloring thanks to the use of dende oil, tomato, and annato powder. Xinxim incorporates similar seasonings, such as cumin and chiles, but also adds a silky richness in the form of crushed peanuts and coconut milk (coconut milk is optional in a moqueca). Fresh okra thickens the stew and lends a distinct, gumbo-like texture and flavor.
The protein you use in your xinxim is up to you. You can have xinxim de galinha (chicken stew), xinxim de peixe (fish stew), or use a combination. Brazilians like to combine chicken thighs and shrimps for a particularly satisfying curry.
Can You Make a Vegan Brazilian Curry?
Of course! You can simply omit the shrimp and add more bell peppers and potatoes to your stew to thicken it up. Some chickpeas and sweet green peas wouldn’t go amiss, either! Also, don’t forget to sub the fish stock with vegetable stock. Then you will have a perfectly delicious, vegan coconut curry.
Prawns vs Shrimp for Coconut Curry
Today, we are making xinxim de camaraoes (Shrimp Coconut Curry). In Portuguese, camaro is used to describe both shrimp and prawns. However, the two shellfish are not the same thing. Aside from various anatomical differences, the two species are found in different environments. Shrimp live predominantly in salt water, while prawns are typically found in freshwater. Prawns also tend to be larger than shrimp, although this is not always the case.
Nutrition and taste-wise, prawns and shrimp are pretty much interchangeable. Both are an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and do well in similar recipes. If there is one you prefer, feel free to use it in today’s recipe. Shrimp are often easier to find in the US, and they also have fewer legs to remove, so we will be using these.
Cassava or Potatoes for Xinxim?
We are using diced potatoes in our shrimp coconut curry recipe. However, you can certainly substitute the same amount of peeled and diced cassava root. In fact, you would probably have a more authentic recipe on your hands if you did! We just like the texture that the potato lends to the stew. But the nutty flavor of cassava would complement the earthy taste of this curry just fine.
Brazilian Shrimp Coconut Curry Recipe
12 oz shrimp, peeled and de-veined
½ cup peanut butter
8 oz fish stock
1-2 tsp salt
8 oz unsweetened coconut milk
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 green chili, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of fresh okra, diced (about 8 pods)
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
Fresh cilantro for garnish
- Heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add in a good drizzle of peanut oil, then cook the onions, red bell pepper, and green chili until tender and fragrant (3 minutes). Add in the garlic and cook until just fragrant (under 1 minute).
- Add in the diced potatoes, fish stock, peanut butter, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender (about 20 minutes).
- Stir in the peeled shrimp and fresh okra. Allow the stew to cook just until the shellfish are pink and tender (just about 3-4 minutes).
- Taste for seasoning and add in salt as needed.
- Squeeze in the juice of two fresh limes and stir in a good handful of fresh, chopped cilantro.
- Serve piping hot over steamed rice and garnished with fresh lime wedges and more cilantro and toasted peanuts, if desired.
What Happens if My Stew Isn’t Thickening?
The fresh okra and potatoes should help your curry to thicken. However, if you are finding your stew too runny, you can thicken it up further with a coconut slurry. Start with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and two tablespoons of water. Mix together in a small bowl and pour this into your stew. Bring to a boil. Continue this ratio until desired thickness is attained.
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