Aromatic Indian Shrimp Pilaf (Kolambi Bhaat) Recipe

Prasanna Sankhe

If, like me, you love rice and have a soft spot for seafood, you're bound to find this dish irresistible. It uses a host of whole spices that create a wonderfully heady aroma. Kolambi Bhaat literally translates to shrimp pilaf; it's an especially popular meal along India's west coast, where there's an abundant supply of fresh seafood.

Despite its many ingredients, this pilaf isn't difficult to prepare. The whole spices, coconut milk and subtle hint of chilies make it more fragrant than spicy. And, of course, basmati rice contributes another perfumed layer to the flavor profile.You can have this pilaf on its own or add some papadums for crunch and raita(yogurt salad) for pleasant contrast.

Recipe Facts

Active: 35 mins
Total: 35 mins
Serves: 2 servings

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  • 1 1/2 cups medium shrimp
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coconut flesh
  • 3 serrano chilies split lenghtwise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 medium clove garlic, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3 cups water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 whole star anise cloves
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup coconut milk


  1. Combine shrimp, turmeric, and lime juice in a bowl and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Combine coconut, chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons water in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

  3. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until shimmering. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves and star anise. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the marinated shrimp and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground spice paste and mix through with the shrimp and onion mixture. Stir vigorously until well blended and oil starts separating from the mixture-about 2 minutes. Add rice. Stir gently until the spice mixture coats the grains well. Add 3 cups hot water, 1 cup coconut water, and a teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, remove lid, and let cook without stirring until rice is cooked and water has dried up, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with papadums and raita.

Special equipment

Blender, Heavy-bottomed [lidded] saucepan