Cochin is a coastal town in southern India and, during my last visit there, I took a class from a woman who teaches Konkani cooking in her home. As our teacher prepared a prawn curry, the class discussed spices and disputed the different approaches to cooking prawns. My teacher espoused a longer cooking time, while I, like many in the West, advocate barely cooking them for fear of making them rubbery. But never had I tasted anything like this curry dish before: the prawns were delicious, the flavours were rich. What follows is pretty much her recipe with slight modifications.
Chef Vikram Vij is the owner of Vij's in Vancouver.
36 to 42 prawns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ghee or cooking oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
3 cups finely chopped red onions
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup tamarind juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup coconut milk
Peel and devein prawns. Heat ghee or oil in a large frying pan on medium to high heat for 1 minute. Sprinkle in cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 45 seconds. Add onions and sauté until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and add turmeric, salt and cayenne. Sauté for 1 minute, then add jalapeno pepper and ginger. Sauté for 1 more minute. Add tamarind juice and bring it to a boil. Add prawns and stir gently for about 5 minutes or until prawns are orange-pink and firm, then add coconut milk and cook for three more minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve with basmati rice.