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