Seductive, alluring, refined
The sea air was thick with the smell of salt, fish and the hum of hard graft. Dad would swing his feet from the harbour wall and watch the fisherman’s skinny cinnamon arms and legs haul in their nets and pull their paint blistered vessels into port. The big open sky and the thought of a land beyond these shores mystified him, but it was the scent of fresh fish and in particular, prawns which set his head swaying in the breeze. Karachi’s position by the ocean meant that the family would tuck into a fish curry or prawn curry supper at least once a week. The pink prawns would sit in a pool of crimson gravy, the curry prawns teasing the family. Little Victor along with his brothers and sisters would await the starter’s orders. In this case it would be Dhada-ji saying grace and then the trap doors to their jaws would drop and the race to taste the sharp sour yet sweet tang on their tongues began.
Decades later and in his early forties, Dad found himself far from Karachi’s coastline and in the New World of America, California. It had been more than 20 years since he was an immigrant and the prospect of starting again doused him in a thrill of fear and adventure. Embracing the American Dream dominated his every waking moment and he decided the best way into people’s hearts, was via their tummies. He hosted successive dinner parties and grew his network of friends and business connections. He refined his cooking methods, learnt new dishes and seduced them with recipes from old. This masala prawn curry recipe is a temptress and will lead you on begging for more of her silky red allure….beyond the point of no return.
Serves 4 and a bit more (keep some for yourself)
- ¼ tsp of chilli powder
- 6 medium sized tomatoes
- 2 tsp coconut powder
- 5cm fresh root ginger ginger, peeled
- 2 medium sized white onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 green chillies
- 2 tsp madras curry powder
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1tbs white wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 750 medium prawns, peeled and cooked
- 1 big handful of coriander leaves
- 3 tbs peanut oil
- 250 ml water
- Squeeze of lemon
The key thing with dish is not to overcook the prawns particularly if you’re using pre-cooked ones. Marinade the prawns in the vinegar and the chilli powder, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Chop both onions into quarters and put one aside. Pop the rest in a blender along with the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, chillies, ground coriander, curry powder, water and generous pinch of salt. Turn it into a paste.
Heat the oil in a largish pan on a medium setting and sprinkle in the mustard seeds, wait for them to hop around and then add the remaining onion and fenugreek seeds, let it soften. Drop in the blended ingredients with the coconut powder and sugar and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat. Keep the gravy runny with a silken consistency rather than watery, letting the surface of the curry glisten with the rising oil. Introduce the prawns to the pan and let them cook for 3 minutes (10 minutes if using un-cooked peeled prawns), adding the coriander leaves and a squeeze of lemon before serving. To dress the dish you could always fry some curry leaves until crispy in a separate pan and sprinkle on top .
This is runny dish, so best served with rice or armfuls of puffy naans.
Tastes even better than it looks.
Hmmmm tricky one, well that conundrum can only be answered by the Rajah’s growing community.