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Veda Sankaran's South Indian Shrimp Varuval

Veda Sankaran's South Indian Shrimp Varuval

A deceptively simple yet satisfyingly spicy dish that can be found in most South Indian homes is seafood varuval or fry. A quick paste of chili powderturmeric, and roasted coriander powder mixed with garlic paste and lemon juice is used to marinate the seafood before pan frying in shallow oil. It makes for a delicious side dish with traditional sambar, rasam, or yogurt rice, though it would taste just as delicious with fried rice or Indian bread of your choice. Spicewalla pal and flavour maven Veda Sankaran's version has a few additional ingredients and steps, but don’t worry, it’s still easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner!


1 lb fresh or frozen shrimp (peeled, deveined and thawed if frozen) 
½ small lemon, juice
neutral oil, like rice bran or vegetable oil
½ tsp Spicewalla dark brown mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves (approximately 15-17 leaves)
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1 ½ tsp garlic, crushed to a paste
1/16 tsp Spicewalla fenugreek powder
½ tsp Spicewalla roasted cumin powder 
¼ cup diced tomato
salt to taste
1 tbsp ghee

For the spice paste: 
1 ½ tsp Spicewalla Kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp Spicewalla roasted coriander powder
½ tsp Spicewalla turmeric
¼ tsp tamarind paste
¼ tsp jaggery powder/dark brown sugar
2 tbsp water


First, prepare the shrimp, by either peeling and deveining if fresh or thawing in cold water if frozen. Drain the water and gently squeeze the shrimp to remove as much water as possible. Once the shrimp is ready, squeeze on the lemon juice and stir. Set this aside while preparing the spice paste. 

For the spice paste:
Place the Kashmiri chili powder, roasted coriander powder, turmeric, tamarind paste, and sugar in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water and stir together. Let the spice paste bloom for about 10 minutes. Then, spoon the spice paste on the shrimp and stir to evenly coat it.

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet and add 2 tbsp of oil to coat the bottom. Once the oil is hot enough, add the mustard seeds and wait for the popping to slow down. Once it slows down, immediately place in the curry leaves and give it a quick stir. Within 10 seconds, add the chopped shallots, crushed garlic, and ¼ tsp salt. Sauté for a minute before adding the fenugreek and roasted cumin powders. 
  2. After about another minute, place in the diced tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes soften and become incorporated with the shallots, stirring occasionally. This will take approximately 2-3 minutes. 
  3. Remove the shallot mixture from the pan and set aside. Then, heat 1 tbsp of oil in the same pan and add in the marinated shrimp. Cook for 2-3 minutes or just until the shrimp begins to curl and is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook them. 
  4. Remove the shrimp from the pan, leaving the liquid sauce to simmer. Add a tbsp of ghee and simmer until the liquid begins to thicken, stirring continuously. This should take between 3-5 minutes. Once the masala has darkened in color and thickened, place the shallot mixture you set aside back into the pan, stir, and cook for a minute. Taste the masala for salt and add more if needed 
  5. Next, place in the cooked shrimp, toss with the masala to coat evenly, and cook for a minute or just enough time to warm up the shrimp. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

*Note 1: Veda prefers using Argentinian red shrimp for this recipe.

*Note 2: This is a spicy dish, but to keep the flavor while moderating the heat, simply reduce the Kashmiri chili powder to ¾-1 tsp.

1 Comment

  • One of if not the best Southeast Asian I have cooked.So delicious! Needs a bit of prep time but once that is done it comes together very quickly.I added just a little bit of water at the end to deglaze the pan and make a little sauce.A winner!

    Ellen quilty on

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