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May 29, 2012
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Wine With...Shrimp with Curry and Coconut Milk

By Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

Got only a few minutes to throw together a nutritious, delicious, wine-friendly dinner? In less time than it would take to purchase and reheat a take-out meal, you can rub a handful of shrimp with curry powder, then quickly sauté the shellfish. Add a splash of water, coconut milk, and a handful of fresh herbs. Voilà, dinner’s ready! Served with white rice or cellophane noodles, this is a comforting main dish or delicious appetizer.

Shrimp with Curry and Coconut Milk
Serves 2-4

1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
one 13.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, warmed
2 fresh limes
½ cup combined minced fresh basil, mint and cilantro

Coat the shrimp with the curry powder. If you like a little extra spice in your food, add the cayenne. Heat a heavy skillet and add the oil. Add the shrimp and sauté, stirring them frequently, until they are just cooked through, about three minutes. Ladle about ½ cup of the coconut milk into individual serving bowls and add the shrimp. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the top and sprinkle fresh herbs over the top. Garnish with lime wedges and serve with rice.

* * *

While most palates will probably prefer the familiar tastes and textures of white wine with this Thai-style shrimp dish, we discovered in our tasting that wine buffs who choose to drink red exclusively will still have plenty of options. The best strategy is to select soft, fruity reds with little or no tannin. (Tannins often clash on the taste buds with shellfish.) For similar reasons, white wines that lean too far in one direction or another—too acidic, too oaky—did not fare well in our tasting. Gewurztraminer is often touted as an ideal companion for curried foods, but the one in our lineup tasted too sweet with the curry. A semi-sweet Riesling and a Moscato likewise seemed unpleasantly sugary with the shrimp. As is so often true, balance was the key.


Approx. Price


Laurent Miquel Père et Fils, Pays d’Oc (France) Syrah/ Grenache 2010

Imported by Miquel et Fils


We were not expecting this Syrah-based red from Southern France to partner so well with the curried shrimp, but we were pleasantly surprised. Virtually tannin-free, the wine’s silky texture and blueberry flavors formed a savory alchemy with the coconut milk and curry-infused shrimp.

Mulderbosch, Western Cape (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “Steen Op Hout” 2011

Imported by Cape Classics


This Chenin Blanc’s background sweetness is comforting rather than intrusive when paired with the flash of heat in the dish. It works especially well if a judicious amount of fresh lime is squeezed over the finished curry, with the citrus bringing out the flavors of the varied spices.

Parducci, Mendocino County (California) Chardonnay “Small Lot Blend” 2010


Chardonnays with assertive oak or buttery malolactic elements gave the shrimp a metallic taste, but this more candid expression of the Chardonnay grape was a splendid match with it. Unfussy and well balanced, the wine was deliciously synergistic with the dish’s complex curried components.

Peregrine, Riesling, Central Otago (New Zealand) Riesling 2009

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


With its elegant floral, herbal and citrus flavors and refreshing (but not too tart) acidity on the finish, this Riesling was simply stunning with the curried shrimp. It provoked a pleasing gustatory sensation akin to satin (coconut milk) and sequins (wine).

Sea Glass, Santa Barbara County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2011


This Sauvignon Blanc serves as a delicate counterpoint to the rich, composite curry flavors. Slightly sweet and intensely herbaceous, it’s an easygoing little wine that is as pure and clean as an ocean breeze,

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