Kerala prawn fry

Kerala prawn fry is a simple dish of crispy fried prawns. It is also known as shrimp roast or locally as nadan chemmeen varuthathu.

This dish is from India’s south-western coastal region and is a well-known and well-loved street vendor offering. It is one of the most popular dishes from the Keralan cuisine.

The recipe would suit serving this as a starter, a snack, a simple meal, or as part of a larger festive meal.

It has some heat, but not too much, and allows the flavour of the prawns to stand out. If you want it hotter you could add more Kashmiri chilli powder, but then you stand the risk of overpowering the dish. As presented below it is slightly hot and tangy, typical of dishes from this area.

It is a dry dish, having no gravy or sauce. Well suited to eating with your hands. It makes great finger food for entertaining. In this situation you might well just provide small skewers or toothpicks for your guests.

This the easiest seafood recipe in this book by a long way. Because of this simplicity, it is well suited to entertaining, as the cooking part is very quick.

The two key elements to this recipe are the ingredients and the frying technique.

Select the biggest, freshest prawns you can find. Peel them, keeping the tails intact because that makes them easier to eat with your hands – which is the best way to eat them.

When frying, make sure you do not overcrowd the pan. Cooking them in batches will help you get even cooking. The earlier batches will continue cooking in their residual heat, so be careful to not overcook them.

If served as a simple meal, we would just accompany this with chapatis.

the recipe

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  • 500 g prawns - shelled and deveined


to cook

  • 1 tbsp rice flour
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

to serve

  • salt - to taste
  • 1 lime - cut into wedges


  • Heat a small frypan over medium heat. Add the coriander and cumin seeds and the peppercorns. Fry and toss gently until they start to colour and become aromatic. Remove from the heat, allow to cool then grind to a fine powder.
  • Put the minced ginger and garlic, the ground coriander, cumin and pepper powder, the ground turmeric, the Kashmiri chilli powder and lime juice in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Dry the prawns on a paper towel then place them into the bowl. Mix well, ensuring every prawn is well coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

to cook

  • Remove the prawns from the marinade and lay them out on a flat plate in one layer. Lightly dust them with the rice flour.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add the sprig of curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds or until crisp but still vibrant green. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the prawns in 2 batches for 2-3 minutes a side or until golden, crisp and just cooked. Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper.

to serve

  • Place the prawns on a serving dish and season lightly with salt. Scatter the fried curry leaves over the top and the lime wedges on the side.


  • Do not overcrowd the pan. Make sure each prawn is touching the hot surface of the pan and is coated in oil.
  • Do not overcook the prawns. By cooking in batches the prawns will continue to cook in their residual heat after you remove them from the pan.
  • For presentation when entertaining, you might garnish the dish with a few thickly sliced red onion rings and sliced red chilli.

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Calories: 193 kcal | Carbohydrates: 10 g | Protein: 18 g | Fat: 9 g | Saturated Fat: 7 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 158 mg | Sodium: 890 mg | Potassium: 297 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 868 IU | Vitamin C: 19 mg | Vitamin D: 1 µg | Calcium: 104 mg | Iron: 2 mg

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