Spicy Shrimp Masala with Tomatoes

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup ghee or neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste or freshly grated garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 to 3 Thai green chiles, finely chopped
5 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup coconut milk, stirred (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Roti or pita, for serving

Pat shrimp dry, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon pepper and set aside.

Heat ghee over medium heat in a wok or large (12-inch) frying pan until it has melted, about 30 seconds. Add ginger, garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add chile powder, cumin, turmeric and Thai green chiles. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and start to stick to the wok, about 15 minutes. Add coconut milk if you like it saucy.

Add shrimp. Stir so that shrimp are evenly coated, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally so the shrimp cook evenly, until the shrimp turn pink and appear firm, 4 to 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle with lemon juice, garam masala, cilantro and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Serve with roti, store-bought pita or by itself.

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