Prawn curry is my favorite dish.
There – I said it. Growing up in a coastal city, prawns and fish were staples on the dinner table. One of our family weekend activities used to be driving to the docks, around 8-9 am on a Saturday, when the day’s catch would have been hauled in and placed in giant blue buckets. Ahhhhh the joy of choosing from live crabs, giant shrimp, and the freshest fish. Tiger prawns that would pulsate with life, thrashing around on blocks of ice, soon to be the star attraction of our lunch table.
Yes, we are sadistic people like that. But before you judge me, you should take a look at this video of Julia Child’s demonstration of how to kill a live lobster. Please be warned, its definitely not for the squeamish. But I digress.
Back to the topic of prawn curry. The Saturday market in our city has fish counters where I spend at least a good 20 minutes each weekend, picking and choosing. Maybe some day I’ll gather the courage to try cleaning crabs and cooking squid. But for now I’ll play safe and go with what I know.
The following is a very aromatic and spicy prawn curry, made the Kerala way.
Malabar Prawns Curry
Minimally adapted from 50 great curries of India, Camellia Panjabi
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp
1″ cinnamon stick
4 dried red chillies
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 cup sliced onions
1″ ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of – red chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder
2 chopped tomatoes
400 gms de-veined and shelled prawns
Soak grated coconut in warm water and keep aside in a bowl. After half an hour, squeeze out the milk and keep aside. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water for at least half an hour. Then squeeze out the tamarind juice and keep aside.
In a pan, dry roast the dried red chillies, cloves and cinnamon. Grind the roasted spices in a grinder till fine. Keep aside.
In a shallow pan, heat oil ( I used sunflower oil but coconut oil would be best) and add mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add curry leaves and after a few seconds add onions, stirring for 5 minutes.
Add the ground spiced to this and stir for another minutes, till onions turn opaque.
Add the ginger, garlic, green chillies and the masala powders. Stir for 2 minutes, makin sure the masalas don’t stick to the pan.
Add chopped tomatoes, tamarind juice and 1/2 cup water. Turn down the heat and let it simmer. Then add the coconut milk, salt to taste and stir.
Now add prawns and cook over a gentle heat in the open pan for around 5 minutes till prawns are cooked.
Camellia Panjabi suggests the following garnish:Put 2 teaspoons of oil in a ladle and hold over heat. When hot, add chopped shallots, and wait for 60 seconds. Then add 6 curry leaves, and continue heating for 15 seconds. Pour this over the curry and leave for a few minutes.