Andhras love their prawns and chilli and that is not surprising since Andhra Pradesh has one of the largest cultivated prawn industries in India and it also ranks first for chilli production.
I remember the first time I tried this dish was in Hyderabad and I probably didn’t taste much of it then because I couldn’t cope with the chilli. But as time went by (I was there for 12 glorious spicy years) my palate became accustomed and I could differentiate between the different types of fried prawn: from Hyderabad, Nellore and Rayalaseema which were all subtly different but fiery as hell!
So, I bring this lovely dish to you but sans heaps of chilli. It will be hot but you will be able to taste it, I promise. The amazing thing about this dish is that it uses common ingredients but the taste is so very different to a standard curry. It is impressive and a good party dish.
Marination: 2 hours (preferable but not essential)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
You will need:
- 500 g large uncooked prawns
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp hot red chilli powder (reduce/increase according to taste)
- 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh garlic ginger paste (use roughly equal quantities of both)
- The juice of 1 small lime
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- Salt to taste (preferably unrefined sea salt)
- 3 tbsp cooking oil (vegetable, groundnut, rapeseed, sunflower or olive)
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 4 hot green chillies, slit lengthways (reduce/increase depending on heat desired, but do not leave out)
Devein the prawns by making a shallow cut with a sharp knife vertically down the back line – you should see a darkish line. While some chefs argue that this is not necessary, I like to do it because it removes the grit and opens up the prawn during the cooking process which allows it to soak up more flavour. Deveining is not practical for small prawns so best to buy larger prawns.
Marinate the prawns in the chilli powder, half the garlic-ginger paste, half the turmeric and cumin powder and lime juice. Leave the prawns to absorb these spices for about two hours in a fridge.
When ready to cook, place the prawns with the marinade in a heavy bottomed pan with 50ml of water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat with the lid on. Set the cooked prawns aside.
Now heat the oil in a wok or karahi, preferably an iron one as this will let you scrape out the best bits at the end. Add the green chillies and curry leaves and stir around for 2-3 seconds. Add the sliced onion and cook until this is translucent. Add the remaining garlic-ginger paste and spices and cook until the oil starts to separate from the mix and the smell of raw garlic and onion has gone. This should take about 15 minutes but the exact time taken to reach this stage will depend on how pungent the onions and garlic are and also your cooking pot and hob.
Now add the prawns together with the liquid in which they were cooked. Add the chopped coriander, simmer for five minutes and serve.
This dish goes well with a rice-based meal (the tradition in Andhra Pradesh as its a rice eating region). Serve with plain steamed rice, daal and vegetables.