Prawn Perfect

As a little girl in Bombay, I remember, there used to be a fisherwoman named Paru who came by every morning with a basketful of fresh fish. She would stand under our window and yell, Tayi, teesrya gya or Tayi, kolbi gya (that’s Marathi for, Sister take these shell fish or Sister take these prawns). I would run to the window to keep her there until my mom finished whatever she was doing and came to the window to inspect the freshness of the fish. After fifteen to thirty minutes of bargaining and myopic inspection, my mother would decide on how much to pay Paru and Paru would throw in some extras, wrap the money she received into a pouch that she tucked into the front of her blouse, and visibly relax into social mode. The business of bargaining done and over with, my mother would also relax and enquire after Paru’s children. A cup of tea with a slice of bread or some of that morning’s breakfast would then be placed before Paru who would demolish the meal hungrily. Afterwards, I would stand over the kitchen sink with Mamma and help her to peel and de-vein the prawns. Mamma would then rub vinegar or lemon juice over my hands to get rid of the smell of the prawns.

There are several methods of cooking prawns. In these series of prawn recipes, I plan to bring forth four of the easiest ones in my repertoire. Prawns Varuthathe (a simple sautéed dish of prawn and onion), Prawn Biryani, Prawn with Bottle Gourd and Kerala Prawn Curry.

Lets begin with the Prawns Varuthathe

You will need

  • ½ kilo of Prawns
  • 2 large onions
  • a good sized sprig of Curry leaves
  • 2 whole red chilies
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • some oil for frying.

While peeling and de-veining the prawns do note that some varieties of prawns (specially the white river prawns) have veins both on their backs and their stomachs. Neglecting to remove them could cause symptoms of shellfish intolerance.

Ed: That’s polite-speak for you’ll mark a trail to the loo.

Take a wok or a non stick pan. Heat a tbsp of oil and add the whole red chilies and the curry leaves. Curry leaves are important because they contribute the main flavor to this dish. Now add the finely sliced onions and sauté until they are beyond the pink stage but just short of turning brown, lower the heat and add the turmeric and chili powders; do not let these spices burn. Immediately add the prawns and salt and sauté for three minutes or until the prawns change color and the masala coats them nicely. Your dish is ready to be eaten with rotis or rice or even bread.

This recipe can be used to make cauliflower as well. Make sure your cauliflower florets are cut small. Further, diced potatoes added to the Prawns Varuthathe add a delicious dimension to this simple dish. The potatoes, however have to be added before the prawns and cooked covered until done, after which the prawns may be added.


a trained singer and an excellent cook. She has been cooking at home for the last 32 years and is now a restauranteur. An Army officer's wife, she has travelled the length and breadth of India and has been exposed to many of the numerous variations of Indian cuisine. She likes to experiment and is particularly fond of breakfast food and meats.