Chemmeen (Prawn) Moilee:
1 kg shelled, deveined, uncooked, frozen prawns (thawed)
4 tbsp all purpose cooking oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 cups coconut milk
One large onion
Piece of ginger about 4 inch long and 1 inch thick
1 tsp ginger paste – julienned
One medium tomato
2 sweet red chillies
1/2 tsp yellow chilli powder
2-3 tsp turmeric (depends on how colorful and intensely pungent your turmeric is)
5 white pepper corns – ground fine
A bunch of Curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
– Frozen prawns work as well as fresh prawns. If you like to use fresh prawns – and shell them yourselves – don’t throw the shells away – save them in the freezer to make seafood stock along with odd bits of fish you may have leftover. Make sure to devein well if you use fresh prawns.
– I used (gasp) Maggi coconut milk powder reconstituted as per directions on package. Aalok assures me it is more stable and danger of curdling is less when cooking, and whn the lemon is added. Also, I didn’t have the time to go out to get tinned coconut milk.
– The sweet red chilli is very mild – I believe it is the same that is used in making the Thai sweet chilli sauce.
– If you use regular green chillies in place of the sweet red chilli – you can leave out the chilli powder.
– I used organic turmeric from Kumaon. Darker and more flavorful with earthy notes than store bought turmeric.
– It is traditional to cook entirely in coconut oil, but for a mixed group, esp. if including foreigners, better to use regular oil, and temper with coconut oil.
– Slice onions and sweat them in oil on medium heat till translucent – do not brown. Covering and cooking on medium-low helps. (If slices are very long, cut in half)
– Add ginger juliennes and sliced sweet red chillies stir for 5 minutes
– Add 1 tsp ginger paste and stir again quickly.
– To 2 tbsp of water – add all the yellow chilli powder and half the turmeric and make a thin mixture.
– Add the chilli powder – turmeric mixture to the onions and stir for a minute
– Reduce the heat to lowest setting and pour in the coconut milk a little at a time stirring gently.
– Add quartered and deseeded tomato and the remaining half of the turmeric powder and about 10-12 curry leaves and simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomato chunks separate from their skin, but still retain their shape. Fish out the skins with a spoon and discard.
– Season with salt and tip in the prawns. Stir gently spooning the hot liquid over the prawns until the gray colour turns a nice pink . This should take about 3- 5 minutes. Turn off the heat when half the prawns turn pink. They will continue to cook in the heat of the liquid and will all become pink.
– Add the white pepper powder, stir once and add the lemon juice a little a time stirring gently. Adjust salt if needed.
– Transfer to serving dish.
– In a tadka kadhai – add coconut oil, and when it is hot – drop in the mustard seeds and about 6 curry leaves. Let sputter. Pour on top of the prawns in the serving dish.
By Sarraju Narasinga Rao