Prawn Malai Curry is a rich & creamy prawn and coconut dish from Bengal, which legend says got its name from a similar dish made by Malay sailors visiting India. This was one of the first dishes we introduced on our supper club menu and has been a long standing favourite of our guests.
We’ve also used this recipe for a few cooking classes we have done, because it is actually really easy to follow and produces a really tasty dish. For our supper club we pair this with a Bengali tomato & raisin chutney, for which we’ve also provided the recipe below. And we serve both on top of cumin rice flavoured with some ghee.
For the prawn curry (serves 6-8)
- 1 kg cleaned and de-shelled medium-sized prawns
- Salt (to taste)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp ghee
- ½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 dry bay leaves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 4 pieces of clove
- 2 inches cinnamon
- 6 whole peppercorns
- 250-300 gms red onions chopped in halves
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 4 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 500 ml coconut cream
- 3-4 small green chilies – split lengthwise
- ½ tsp garam masala powder (optional)
Marinate the cleaned prawns with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp turmeric and set aside for 15-20 minutes; bring a saucepan of water to a boil, put the onions in and take them out with a slotted spoon once soft (should take 10 minutes max).
Make a paste with the boiled onions; heat the ghee + oil in a cooking pan; add the marinated prawns, and quickly turn them over and take them out of the pan on to a plate, once both sides of the prawns change colour from translucent to opaque.
In the same oil (add some more ghee + oil if not enough left in the pan), add bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns to the pan and allow them to start sputtering; add the onion paste and the ginger paste and cook them down a bit till the paste looks a little darker (2-3 minutes). Now add the coriander and cumin powders, and salt to taste. Lower the heat and mix and saute the paste well, till the oil starts separating from the paste (about 8-10 mins on medium heat).
Once the spices and paste is cooked down, add the split green chilies and coconut milk, and mix the paste well till the curry gets a uniform colour. Add approx 100-150 ml water to the curry to loosen it (it should be a smooth, thick curry, that can be ladled on to a plate); add sugar to balance the taste (it should have a slightly sweet finish and the green chilies will increase the heat of the curry by the time you serve it). Once the curry comes to a boil, add back the par-cooked prawns and their juices, let it simmer for a couple of minutes and take it off the heat. The residual heat of the curry will complete the cooking of the prawns.
For the tomato relish
- 3-4 medium-sized chopped red tomatoes (approx. 1.5 cups)
- 1 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tsp thinly slivered ginger
- 2 dried red chilies
- 1 tsp paanch phoron (Bengali five spice)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric + ½ tsp water made into a paste
- Salt (to taste)
- 2-3 tbsps sugar (to taste)
- ½ cup golden raisins
Heat mustard oil in a pan. Add the dried red chilies and once smoking, add the paanch phoron (5 spices). Once they start sputtering, add the ginger slivers, then add the tomatoes and the turmeric paste (work quickly, the seeds can otherwise burn and turn bitter to taste)
Add the salt (½ to 1 tsp) and let the tomatoes cook down till the tomatoes don’t taste raw, and start to taste savoury, but under-seasoned. Add the sugar gradually and taste before adding more so it tastes sweet (but not very sweet since the raisins will release sweetness slowly into the relish). Now add the golden raisins and let the chutney come to a simmer. It should now taste sweet with a savoury and slightly hot finish on the palate
Take the whole red chilies out before serving them. This chutney is ideally served at room temperature. You can add a heaped tablespoon on top of the serving of the Prawn Malai Curry & Cumin Rice.
So there you have it. A historic and flavourful prawn dish and a moreish tomato chutney. Both are fairly easy to make, so here’s hoping you enjoy making them!