Bengali Prawn Curry

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This Bengali prawn curry is one that was passed on to me by my mother-in-law and is, without doubt, my favourite of all prawn curries. The sweet undertones from the desiccated coconut and prawns blends superbly with the black mustard seeds and chilli powder, giving it a gently kick. I love to cook it using the king of all prawns, but it tastes equally good if you cook it using the smaller varieties as well. I do prefer to keep the tails mind you, both for appearance and because it holds the prawns together well, so if you can find prawns with shells and tails on I would always opt for those as opposed to buying the ones that have already been shelled and deveined.

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The prawns will be a greyish colour when you buy them. I bought frozen prawns and then let them defrost slowly over night in the fridge before peeling and deveining them in the morning. They remind me of the giant grilled prawns I would eat most evenings when I was staying on the shores of Lake Malawi for my honeymoon, many moons ago.

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Within seconds of being gently cooked the prawns will turn a fabulous pink and begin to curl into themselves. They only need a minute or so cooking on each side to seal them.

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The sealed prawns waiting to go into the curry sauce. The meatiness of them makes them a very satisfying and filling meal.

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Once the prawns have been added to the curry sauce let them simmer gently for a few minutes, making sure you coat the prawns sufficiently in the delicious sauce. Sprinkle ground garam masala over the prawns and give a little stir, before serving with basmati rice.

Bengali Prawn Curry

Serves 3-4

600g prawns, peeled, deveined but tails left on (I used 9 frozen super king prawns)

1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and grated

vegetable oil

2/3 bay leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

25g (or 4/5 tbsp) desiccated coconut

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli powder (less if you prefer it less hot)

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt (you may wish to add one more – taste first)

2tbsp chopped tin tomatoes

200ml boiling water

1 tsp ground garam masala

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a fairly deep frying pan or karahi. On a low heat add the prawns, in stages if your pan is on the small side, so as to seal them. They will curl up slightly and take on a vibrant pinkish hue. After a minute or so turn them over so that both sides are sealed. Then turn them on to their backs so as the top side is also cooked. Remove from the pan and place on a plate to one side, whilst you finish cooking the remaining prawns.

2. Add a little more vegetable oil if it is running dry and keeping the oil at a low heat add the black mustard seeds. They will burst open and sizzle so make sure the oil is not too hot as they will spit! Add the bay leaves and stir with the black mustard seeds.

3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook gently for around 5/6 minutes until they begin to bronze in colour.

4. Add all the spices apart from the garam masala, as well as the salt and sugar.  Stir together and add the tinned chopped tomatoes.

5. Add 200ml of boiling water and add the desiccated coconut. Bring to the boil gently stiring and add the prawns. Gently cover the prawns in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

6. Add the ground garam masala over the prawns, give a quick stir and serve immediately.

Serve with basmati rice.

3 thoughts on “Bengali Prawn Curry

  1. Torie–This looks wonderful. I’m curious: do you guys actually get FRESH shrimp? Aside from local Maine shrimp, tiny fellows, with a short season, and a few experiments with producing farmed freshwater shrimp, my understanding is that all shrimp here are flash frozen because they’re so perishable. Also, as a relatively inexperienced cook of Indian food, is garam masala generally sprinkled over things? I’ve only seen it used like curry powder, i.e. stirred into stuff. Thanks. Ken

    • Hi Ken, some good observations indeed. In answer to your questions most of the shrimp/prawns I buy are either frozen or I guess have been flash frozen as you said. You can get fresh shrimp here in the UK, especially down on the south coast (maybe you can in other parts of the UK, but I am more familiar with the south coast), they are only the small variety though – probably similar to the Maine shrimp, but thinking about it they too have probably been quick frozen after being caught. You got me thinking now!!!
      Regarding your second question yes I normally use garam masala like a curry powder, but my mother-in-law for this recipe always sprinkles on a little at the end, gives it a quick stir and then serves, so I have began to follow her example, for this recipe at least. I don’t think it is common practice but I guess you could say it is her own little unique spin on things. I love this recipe so hope you get a chance to make it too. Cheers Torie

  2. Eskay See

    Bengalis use garam masala as a finishing spice by sprinkling it on top of the cooked dish just before serving. It is used sparingly, and is there for its aroma.

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