Garlic Prawn Curry

After what seemed an extraordinarily lengthy two years, I flew from Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi, trying to swallow tears as the plane hit the hot tarmac. I managed to meet my grinning  mother and wide-eyed sister with composure and we were all talking over-excitedly, on top of each other, consumed with the simple yet complete happiness, of a family being together again. My accent changed, much to The Scotsman’s amusement, back to the super fast, flatter, heavy syllable sound of Indians speaking English.  All was noise, confusion, half-finished sentences and laughter.

Piling into the rented apartment, I noticed my mother carrying a particularly large and heavy looking carrier bag, from where the scent of garlic and spices escaped from supposedly, tight lidded containers. I couldn’t plague her with questions or stick my face into the bag to demystify its contents yet, as I had a wee baby to sort out first. And that took a while. She was bathed, fed and settled, while time marched on and we suddenly realised we were starving. Out came plastic containers of all sorts of shapes and sizes from that Mary Poppins like bag and the contents were gently reheated and served. And this Garlic Prawn curry was one of them.

Now, I did not put in any foodie requests for my arrival. Yet Mama knew that this is what she had to make and that a cabbage and carrot thoran would be the perfect side dish for me. I looked at all the various dishes and asked her how on earth she knew exactly which ones to make. She just smiled, in a self-conscious and yet, knowing manner and simply replied, ” I just did. I knew.”

This is simplicity itself. Other than turmeric, there is no other spice. The taste is reliant solely on the garlic, the ‘body’ of the ‘curry’ comes from tomatoes and the curry leaves add that finishing touch. Cooking this in coconut oil, really makes it special and lends an authenticity to it.

There is only one point, on which I have to bully you into compliance and that is; keeping the flame at medium the whole way through, cook the ‘masala’ until it is complete mush, has darkened, gets shiny and the oils are released. Then and only then, will the true flavour of this recipe come into its own. It’s a small point that makes a big difference. I have previously, due to lack of patience, proceeded without cooking the masala that far, and then wail that it didn’t taste the same. Learn from my mistakes.  I finally have!

And that’s it! If you want more liquid, up the tomatoes to one more and you can always add a bit of water to get the consistency that pleases you. I wanted this a little drier and less liquid. It’s wonderful with just about anything, rice, chapatis, parathas, or just a spoon.

I don’t quite remember any of the conversations we had while eating but I can still recall the feeling of being at the brink of bursting! I left my child to the care of her newly introduced relatives and proceeded to sprawl, comatose, on the sofa.

I tell you, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Garlic Prawn Masala

500gm fresh prawns
3 large tomatoes, skinned and deseeded but sieve the seeds to retain the sourness of the tomatoes (optional, but it does give you a smooth sauce without the seeds)
2 shallots , finely diced, or a small onion or a couple of spring onions
Half a head of garlic, finely diced or crushed
1 teaspoon chilli powder or to taste (optional)
Pinch of turmeric
15 curry leaves
4 tablespoons of coconut (or veg) oil

If using chilli powder, soak it and the turmeric in a couple of teaspoons of water, to prevent it from burning. If you are leaving out the chilli powder, ignore the soaking.

Heat half the coconut oil, saute onions and garlic, till translucent. Add the soaking chilli and turmeric, saute for 10 seconds, then add tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes until they dry out, become pulpy, darken and start to look shiny as it releases its oils. The masala is now ready.

Add the fresh prawns and cook until the colour changes. Add salt and taste it. It should be a bit tangy, if not, add white vinegar/lemon/lime juice to taste. Take off the heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp coconut oil and curry leaves. Mix well and leave to infuse for 10 minutes before serving.

Note : To get ahead, you can make the curry upto the point where you add the prawns. When you are ready to serve, reheat gently, add the prawns and proceed as above.


58 thoughts on “Garlic Prawn Curry

  1. jobakes

    Gorgeous Carrie – I was welling up just imagining you so happy to see your mama and her bag of goodies! And this dish looks superb, a fantastic easy addition to a table of Indian dishes methinks! And I just love your font/design on the recipe page – graphic and clean, just lovely 🙂

  2. eat, little bird

    Oh I love your step-by-step photos! You always do them so well. Funny how mothers always know just what their daughters are craving. I miss my mum’s cooking terribly and wish she could cook for me more often. Whenever I visit, I feel I always have the strangest requests, often those dishes which I refused to eat when I was a child!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Oh I am kinda the same Thanh, all the stuff I wasn’t keen on, or more likely, fed up of growing up was what I craved when away. There are some things though, I still stoutly refuse to eat. Dried fish curry anyone??? bleugh!

  3. {Main St. Cuisine}

    I love your writing style and how you described the reunion with your family. I have to think about trying this dish (which is beautifully photographed, by the way). The ingredients look so wonderful. One question for you…we have several Indian markets near us. Would I easily find the curry leaves there? You can tell I’m out of my cooking comfort zone with that silly question!

    Thanks for the lovely recipe today!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Thankyou Allison :-))

      And yes, I think you wouldn’t have any trouble finding it there. It is quite a specific Indian ingredient, regional even. Its more prevalent in the south. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. It will probably be given to you as a branch! Yup, lookin like it was just hacked off a tree!

      To store it in the fridge – wrap them in kitchen paper and store in the box. They also freeze really well, just put them into a large freezer bag. However, the flavour does dull over time, so if a recipe calls for 10, put in 15 if using the frozen one.

      Hope this helps!

  4. sannekurz

    When reading, you make us taste the food as well as feel your family reunion.
    “Liebe geht durch den Magen” as we say in German…it sort of translates “Love reaches it’s destination via the stomach”.

  5. Sam-I-am

    I am making this! I am making it. Did I say I was gonna make this? Yes, for sure I am making it. How can I not make it with such an introduction and photography? Yes, I am making this. I am making this, yes.

  6. melanie

    oh this is a signature family recipe… wins every time….beautiful photos carrie…actually you and mum should collaborate on actually compiling a cookbook. I am serious… for instance… let mum give you the recipes you cook them and photograph them….with your articles…seriously consider….

  7. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    Allison asked my question for me 🙂 Thanks, Allison! My friend Carrie, I always am dying to try your recipes because your photos make me wanna eat the page, but the availability of ingredients in my hillbilly haven is limited… frustrated sigh. This looks beautiful and mouth watering! And the story about your family reunion was just beautiful.

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Thanks Heather! You can still make this, just leave out the curry leaves, and use normal veg oil for cooking. That’s what I did when I lived in Aberdeen and it still tasted delicious. This, like my sister Melanie said, is a signature family recipe! Can’t think of it, without thinking of family :-))

  8. Big Sis Little Dish

    I will try this as soon as decent tomatoes grace us with their availability in New York again! I make a version of this that I am absolutely certain would not pass for authentic enough for you (its from a quick easy indian food for Americans kind of cookbook) but I love it because the curry leaves are sooooooo delicious. I don’t make it so often since my poor curry tree died. So sad. I look forward to trying your proper version!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Och I am no puritan when it comes to Indian food, or at least, I hope I don’t make a bully of myself in that regard on here!!! There are some things, particularly when it comes to techniques, that I make a point of noting, but it’s only because it makes a considerable difference. Like the frying of the masala here. So what’s your version ? 😀

      Curry leaves are amazing, their flavour cannot be substituted! LOve them..apparently, chewing them raw is beneficial to those with cholesterol issues…

  9. Rushi!

    Another beautiful post by Carrie. My mom makes a version of this in a lovely clay pot and it’s deliiiicious. Yup the coconut oil adds to the flavour. I miss her cooking so much. I’m going to send her this recipe. I love prawn curry and I will try this version during the week. You made me drool all over my pc 😉

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Oh Rushi, the ‘chaati’ curries are always the best, particularly for seafood…am trying to hunt them down here in Doha. I don’t know why a clay pot curry is so good, but there IS a difference.

      Mop up that drool and start cooking! At least until you can see your Ma again. It’s hard isn’t it? I miss my ma too.

  10. bettybobkin

    Prawns are just about my mostest favouritest thing ever – and see, even the chilli is optional ! I could actually make and enjoy this (though it may be as well not to be going anywhere for some time afterwards until all that garlic had worn off !)

    1. thePatternedPlate

      LOL well it is that finger licking, lip smacking, uber tasty sort of dish that does well for solitary eating! Still Ms Bobkin, considering your recent, cautious forays into the chilli world, a wee pinch of dried chillies, or powder would not go amiss.

      Open the bedroom windows the morning after! LOL!

  11. thelittleloaf

    What a wonderful post and lucky you for having such an amazing Mum! This curry looks absolutely delicious, and now I have the tip of cooking long and slow, I’m hoping I can recreate it perfectly myself. Yum!

  12. Hannah de Bevy de La Faverge

    Beautifully written post as usual Carrie. You never fail to impress with the writing, the photos or the mouth watering recipes!

  13. Sam-I-am

    I finally got to the recipe from my husband’s laptop and printed it out. There is something wrong with my computer, you click on the link and it sets you off in a totally different direction leading to something else completly! Carrie, can you give me an idea of how many people these proportions serve? I have my cousin who lives in Dubai coming for supper tonight and I want to make this for us 3.

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Replied to you on FB. I think this would serve 2-3 people very well, if you have rice and other side dishes as well. We tend to eat it like that. If not, then there is no harm in doubling it!

  14. Big Sis Little Dish

    I made this (exactly as you instructed) and it was wonderful!!!!! It is actually quite different from the shrimp dish that I usually make with curry leaves. I love it. Also, I was in Jackson Heights (thats the big Indian neighborhood in NYC) and I got myself some doklah (is that the right spelling?) on your recommendation. Wow that is good! Thanks for all of the new recipes and treats… not to mention lovely writing and photos!


    1. The Patterned Plate

      Oh thanks Erin, for posting back 😀 So happy you liked it! And oh, doklah’s have been on the to-do list for eons. They are scrummy aren’t they? I had no idea that NY would offer such authentic Indian food, but I think that’s more the naive side of me showing through!

  15. Big Sis Little Dish

    You can get authentic food from anywhere in the world in NYC…if you are willing to travel. When folks immigrate here they tend to set up businesses all in one neighborhood to provide their community with all of the comforts of home! That said, as a visitor in those communities I often can’t find things…even thoug hI know they are there! To find the doklah’s I had to buy some fabric from my favourite Sari shop and then ask the shopkeepers if they knew where to get them. They were very tickled that I was wanting to try such a specific and authentic food!

  16. Pingback: Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce « Big Sis Little Dish

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