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Vikram Vij's Prawn dish at his restaurant in Vancouver. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Vikram Vij's Prawn dish at his restaurant in Vancouver. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Chef Vikram Vij's South Indian prawn curry Add to ...

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.

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Chef Vikram Vij is the owner of Vij's in Vancouver.

  • Servings: 6

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

Method

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.

Suggested Wine Pairings

Shrimp may be delicate and commonly paired with light wines, but the sauce here is anything but timid. Choose an outgoing white from the so-called aromatic family, such as riesling, gewürztraminer, viognier or, a specialty of Argentina, torrontes. The intensely fruity quality of the wine will cut the heat in the same manner as the traditional non-alcoholic drink often served in Indian restaurants, mango juice. Steer clear of lean, crisp and relatively shy wines such as pinot grigio. And please don't squander a red; it will only get caught in the cayenne-jalapeno crossfire. - Beppi Crosariol

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