I Shouldn’t Even Share This: Prawn / Shrimp Curry Recipe

This is a signature dish, right up there among the best dishes I know how to make.  Why am I publishing it?  No idea.

Being completely honest & upfront here, this recipe is NOT VINDALOO HOT unless you want it to be.  It contains no chili, as I am ‘llergic.  BUT, it is very, very tasty and seems to be none the worse for the lack of actual chili chemical.  The ginger, turmeric, black pepper and cumin gives it such a strong *heaty* kick that chili eaters don’t believe their own taste buds.  The recipe is adapted from a golden curry I used to make in Malaysia, a kind of hybrid Thai/Chinese/Indian affair.  I have indicated below where you would add chili in if you absolutely must…Pah!

Also, on the quick part, it really is quick once you get the hang of what it’s about.  The veg prep and the rice take longer than the cooking.  On rice, Uncle Ben’s 10 minute boil in the bag…I hate myself for loving that old guy.

Ingredients (for 4):

  • 100g / 4 oz small, peeled pre-cooked shrimp per person or 6-8 large king size prawns per person. Raw King Prawns take just a minute or so longer to cook.
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 small Shallots, peeled
  • 5 cm / 2 inch piece of Ginger, peeled
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk, the pinky-white/lightest part is the most flavoursome
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 4 Cardamom Pods
  • 2 Cloves
  • …There is a reason for carefully counting out the hard spices, you have to fish them out later…
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of a good Curry Mix Powder. I use a Sainsbury mild curry powder that does not contain chili but does have turmeric, fennel, coriander seed, cumin, black pepper and mustard powder.
  • Small handful per person of assorted Veg as available: I have used  Sugar Snap Peas & Baby Sweetcorns here, but Green Beans or Carrots cut into half moons are fine too, just lightly parboil carrots first.
  • Half a pint / 1/4 litre of coconut milk made up from whatever source: powdered, cream with added water, block coconut, etc…it is a matter of taste, I prefer a milkier sauce and we eat my curry with a spoon and fork, but you can make up a thicker paste of coconut if preferred.
  • Scant pinch of coarse Sea Salt to provide grist to the pestle 
  • Fresh Coriander (cilantro) to garnish, a small handful de-stalked
  • Tablespoon of cooking oil that can take a higher temperature e.g. Vegetable Oil or Groundnut Oil
  • 2 dried Chilis, if you absolutely insist…but seriously!

Method (this is quick cooking so be pre-prepped!):

Set the rice to cook. Prepare the veg if par-boiling or steaming anything for a few minutes.  I sometimes set a steamer over the rice.

Prepare garlic, shallots, lemongrass & ginger by chopping & mincing first and either pounding to a paste with a pinch of coarse sea salt in a pestle and mortar or whizzing in a blender (much easier but a faff to get the thing out the cupboard).  Make up coconut milk to taste and look out the spices and line up.  Heat a wok on a low heat with no oil, and then place the oil inside, swirling round as this stops food welding to the inside of the wok.   Chili-lovers?  Ramp up the heat and fry two large dried chilis in the oil and then remove before they burn and go bitter.  Turn down the heat to medium low and add in shallots, lemongrass, garlic and ginger paste and stir.  Once the paste aromas begin to waft around (two to three minutes), turn the heat down again and let the shallots soften for another couple of minutes.

Once cooked, raise the heat again and place in the cloves, star anise, cardamoms and curry powder and stir all the ingredients until the spice aromas are again released and wafting around your kitchen–two to three minutes or so is usually long enough.  Do not let the spices burn, and to cool things down if required, sprinkle in a little cold water–you might experience an alarming puff of turmeric-yellow steam like an old London fog, but it saves the day. Remove the hard spices–cloves, cardamoms and star anise–they have done their work now in flavouring the dish.  Add in the prawns and veg and stir around to cover in the brown-golden spicey mix and heat through, and then add in coconut milk.  Forgot to take out the cloves etc? They float to the top usually.  Bring the dish to a low simmer while stirring, adding in half of the coriander garnish just before serving.  It is pretty much ready.

Serve with white boiled rice, garnish with fresh coriander on top.  This dish does not really suit the usual curry add-ons like lime pickles and so on, but fresh sliced fruit as a dessert seems to bring together the taste experience.

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