prawns in tomato and tamarind

A good prawn curry is hard to resist and this is a good prawn curry. Hot and tangy, this Malabar prawn curry highlights the sweet flavour of the prawns. This malabari jinghri masala would have to be our most requested way to cook prawns.

The recipe originates from the Malabar Coast, the south-western coastline of India, just south of Goa. Malabari dishes feature seafood, given the location. The dishes have a cosmopolitan feel, as this coastline has been exposed to centuries of influence from trading partners from many parts of the world.

This cosmopolitan influence is also reflected in the diversity of the ethnic mix, with large Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities. This ethnic diversity has brought together a range of techniques and ingredients, making this cuisine very different from other coastal parts of India.

This is a classic Malabari dish. It is meant to be hot, it has the tang of tamarind, and allows the flavour of the prawns to feature.

From a cooking perspective, it is important to get the sauce right, particularly the thickness and texture. You do not want a soupy sauce, instead, you want a thick sauce that clings to the prawns.

Once the sauce is just right, you cook the prawns very quickly in it. You cannot allow the prawns to simmer, as they will lose their flavour and become hard. Consequently, this is a dish that does not lend itself to being cooked in advance – although you could make the sauce in advance and cook the prawns just before serving. This also means that it doesn’t freeze well. You just have to eat it all at one sitting. And that isn’t exactly a problem.

As this is a feature dish, we generally serve it with plain basmati rice or chapatis. We usually serve a kachumber, too.

the recipe

preparation:20 mins
cook:35 mins
total:1 hr
servings:4 servings
calories:353 kcal


to serve


  • Toast and grind the coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds
  • Add the shallots to a food processor, and adding as little water as possible, process to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Add the ginger, garlic and three red chillies to the food processor, and again adding as little water as possible, process to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Add the tomatoes to the food processor and blend to a smooth paste – again using as little water as possible.

to cook

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or karahi over a medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and fry for 30 seconds, then stir in the shallot paste and fry gently for about 10 minutes, or until softened and lightly golden-brown.
  • Add the ginger, garlic and chilli paste, stir well, and fry for a further 5 minutes, until raw garlic smell has gone.
  • Add the curry leaves, chilli powder, coriander, cumin and fenugreek powder, and turmeric. Stir well and fry for two minutes, then stir in the tomato paste. Simmer for about 15 minutes. You need the raw tomato smell to disappear and the sauce to become rich and reduced, and the oil starts to separate from the mixture.
  • Add the tamarind liquid, sliced red chillies and salt. Stir well to get the sauce recombined with the oil.
  • Add the prawns, cook for a further ten minutes or until they are pink, and just cooked through.

to serve

  • Immediately remove from pan to stop prawns over-cooking and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with garam masala and coriander leaves and serve.


  • Fishmongers may sell prawns that have already been shelled and deveined. If that is the case, you only require around 600g of prawns.
  • Choose the largest prawns you can get.
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