Shrimp and Fuzzy Gourd in Spiced Coconut-Buttermilk Sauce

Preparation info

  • Serves


    as a main course
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

By Elizabeth Schneider

Published 2001

  • About

I love coconut milk but often find that dishes cooked with it become too oily and heavy for my taste. Here, coconut shreds are blended with buttermilk (a refrigerator staple for me) and a shrimp and coriander broth for a sauce with a light feel. Abundant, creamy yellow, sweetly aromatic with a hint of white pepper heat, it mingles with the pale green gourd for a pretty shrimp-studded vegetable dish. Scented rice is all that’s needed to make a meal.


  • ¾ pound medium shrimp in the shell
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium bunch cilantro (coriander) with roots intact if possible
  • ½ teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ pound slim fuzzy gourd(s)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • cup (unsweetened) shredded coconut
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


    1. Rinse shrimp and remove shells. Place shells in small pot with the water. Cut off coriander roots, if any, and scrub well under running water. Add to pot. Separate leaves and reserve. Chop stems and add to pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, partly covered, about 20 minutes, while you prepare remaining ingredients.
    2. Combine pepper, fennel, coriander seeds, salt, sugar, and turmeric in spice mill or clean coffee grinder; grind fine. Trim ends from gourds and pare lightly. Quarter lengthwise, then cut into ¼-inch slices. Peel and dice onion.
    3. In heavy 3-quart casserole, melt butter over fairly low heat. Stew onions gently until almost translucent. Add spice mixture and coconut; toss a minute or so. Add gourd and remove from heat.
    4. Strain shrimp broth and return to pot. Boil to reduce to ¾ to 1 cup. Add to vegetables. Simmer, covered, until gourd is translucent and just barely tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
    5. Meanwhile, gradually stir buttermilk into cornstarch. Bunch together cilantro leaves and slice thin. Add buttermilk mixture to pot and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook until barely done, another minute or so.
    6. Off heat, gradually add cilantro leaves, tasting for correct balance.