Shutki shira – Bangladeshi dried shrimp stew

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A classic example of Bangladeshi home cooking, this shutki shira recipe combines umami-rich dried shrimp with the fiery fruity heat of the revered naga chilli. With potato, aubergine, pumpkin and spinach cooked in the broth, it is a hearty and healthy dish cooked without any fat whatsoever that's traditionally enjoyed during the summer. See the rest of Dina's Bangladeshi recipes here.

First published in 2019

Shutki is a much-loved Bangladeshi delicacy of dried or fermented fish and prawns, and somewhat of an acquired taste. It’s cooked in a myriad of ways, however in the Sylhet region it’s incorporated into this stunning dish called shutki shira (shira meaning sauce). The umami taste of dried shrimp combined with the intoxicating fragrance of the fiery naga chilli and fresh vegetables in a light broth is both comforting and satisfying.

Cooked without a drop of oil or fat it’s a healthy and wholesome dish made with a combination of seasonal vegetables, which usually includes potatoes and aubergine. For this dish I’ve chosen dried shrimp (which is readily available in Asian supermarkets) and paired it with pumpkin, potatoes, aubergine and spinach. The naga is used for its unique fragrance as well as heat so it’s worth seeking one out from Bangladeshi grocery shops. If you cannot find fresh naga, substitute it with a scotch bonnet chilli and leave it in for the duration of the final 10 minutes. Serve it with steamed white rice and you have yourself a classic taste of regional Bangladeshi home cooking.





First, soak the dried shrimp in cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and drain, then set aside. Wash the spinach then gather together in a roll and roughly chop into 5cm segments. Set aside
Use a glove to handle the naga chilli as it is extremely hot. Take a sharp small knife and pierce the naga in the middle only once and set aside. Be careful not to remove the stem or pierce it too deeply as this will release too much heat into the stew
Pour 200ml of cold water into a large, deep saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, ground spices, salt and shrimp to the pan. Place a lid on and cook for 10 minutes over a high heat, stirring once halfway
Add the potato to the pan and top up with 250ml water. Stir once, then cover and cook for 10 minutes. Make sure the heat is kept high
Stir once again and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and aubergine then cover and cook for 2 minutes. Top up with a further 800ml of water, place the lid back on and cook for 5 minutes
After this time add the spinach and Naga chilli and gently press down so they are submerged under the liquid. Cover and cook for a final 10 minutes
Halfway through this final cooking time, give the broth a gentle stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. The broth should be hot, however if you prefer not to have it too hot remove the naga chilli at this point
Check the pumpkin is cooked through and, once ready, serve hot with boiled white rice

Dina Begum a cookbook author and writer who is passionate about highlighting the recipes and food traditions of Bangladesh.

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