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Swahili coconut shrimp curry (Kamba wa nazi)

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

This dish highlights the trade between the coast of Zanzibar, Oman and India. The three styles come together in perfect confluence. I cook about 250+ new dishes a year, and occasionally a dish stands supreme over the rest. This is that dish.

This is a delicate curry that highlights the use of North African spices, cinnamon and cardamom, together with Indian ingredients, chillis and coconut milk. The result is a rich curry loaded with shrimp and the perfect balance of spice, and tanginess, followed by a lingering heat. the colour pops on the plate and the curry is addictive. This is the dish that guests will dig into, so make extra. Serve with rice or naan or other spongy bread to sop up the curry.

Felicia Campbell is an award-winning, writer, editor and producer. Her cookbook is more of a historical memoir of the region, its food, its culture and its deep history. This could be one of those cookbooks that you can read as a novel, but I love to rush into my kitchen and cook the dishes knowing their deep history

For more recipes from this fabulous cookbook, click here.


2 lb large shrimp

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons oil

2 onions, minced

2 plum tomatoes, minced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

Salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste

2 green chillies, slit longitudinally + 1 for garnish

Lime juice

Cilantro, minced for garnish

Add the shrimp, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and lime juice to a frying pan and cook on low heat. No need to add water or oil, the shrimp will give out liquids for the shrimp to cook in. When the shrimp are just cooked through, do not overcook or the shrimp will get rubbery, turn off the heat and set them aside.

Meanwhile, in a deep pot add the oil and fry the onions till they are a deep golden, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes have broken down completely about 12-15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk with the water, salt, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chilli and green chillies. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes till the sauce thickens and the oils begin to float to the surface.

Add the shrimp and any liquids and mix in. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lime and mix in well. Taste for tartness, spice and salt. Adjust as desired.

Serve hot with rice or spongy bread that will sop up the curry.

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