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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vintage Gourmet: Prawn Curry

As a movie buff, I am following the whole discussion about The Help with great interest.  This isn't a new discussion, of course, but it seems to have risen as a topic of conversation again because the movie is up for a number of Oscars this weekend, and Viola Davis and/or Octavia Spencer may actually win.

The issue is partially who has the authenticity and the right to tell the story of African-American maids in the 1960s South, and also whether it is demeaning for prominent actresses to have to play maids at this point in their careers.

I'm not participating in this debate, other than to say I'm always happy to see Viola Davis in any role and she gave a great interview on NPR where she talked about drawing on her mother's experiences as a maid.  The movie itself was kind of a meh for me despite some good acting.
The interesting question to my mind is this:  what is authentic? 

I swear that long segue has something to do with cooking.  Last week, I decided to make a prawn curry, mostly because I'd had a not-great chicken curry at an Asian-fusion restaurant the week before that was totally ruined by the addition of a liberal handful of pineapple tidbits.

Surely, I thought, I could make something more authentic than that.  But really, I'm not sure that I did, particularly after reading the terrific curry recipes written by some of my fellow bloggers.

I will say this:  it tasted awfully good, authentic or not.  A warning on the heat quotient:  I left the seeds in the bird peppers, but omitted them from the habanero.  It was what I'd called medium spicy, not for the faint of heart but not requiring either David or I to fan our mouths in pain.

Prawn Curry
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, August 2008

1 small red bird pepper, minced
1 small yellow bird pepper, minced
1 small orange habanero pepper, seeds omitted, minced
1 tsp. good-quality hot curry powder (I used Penzey's)
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole mustard seeds
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 medium onion, sliced
1 can light coconut milk
1 1/2 pounds large prawns, peeled

Warm a large skillet over medium heat, then add the oil.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chiles, curry powder, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring frequently until the chiles are softened.

Add the mustard and coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric and cook, stirring frequently, until the seeds start to pop.

Add the onion and cook for about another five minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to go limp.  Then add the coconut milk and stir to combine the ingredients.  Cook until the milk is reduced slightly, about five minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until they are bright pink and cooked through, about five to seven minutes.  Taste for seasoning and serve hot with jasmine or basmati rice.  I added a few drops of sesame oil to the rice for a little additional depth of flavor.

Serves four as a main course.


  1. Funny that a "bad" meal out inspired you to come home and do a better job at it. Most bloggers are fairly nice when they go out, but I have my limits. I may have returned that meal to the kitchen with a comment like this is not what I thought it would be.
    Your curry dish does look wonderful and I like seafood curries the best. Medium spicy is my pick too, I certainly do not want to sweat when I eat!

  2. Yum! I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about making my own curry dish. After reading your recipe I might have to try my hand at it. The dish looks anad sounds fantastic!

  3. You had me at Prawn.. then you sealed the deal with the word CURRY! I love all the ingredients you have here... especially the habanero! Wow.. that's some heat. Talk about living dangerously up there in Alaska!! I would love this curry. :)

  4. Mmmm, I love a good prawn curry! Sounds delicious!

  5. Authentic is a tricky slope. What's authentic to my grandmother from Basilicata is not authentic to someone's grandmother from Emilia-Romagna. What's not a slippery slope is this lovely curry - so enhanced by the delicious spices.

  6. Looks lovely! Although I think I'll remove all the seeds. I'm a wimp when it comes to spice...

  7. I feel the same way about pineapple in curry. A lot of times "fusion" is just the worst of two cuisines LOL..
    Your Curry looks wonderful. I love all kinds of curries.

  8. I am good for the heat! Love spicy. Love curry too.

    Interesting about the help. What I took away from the book/movie ( thought the book was better) besides what was obvious... it was about the complicated relationships women have with their friends, family, lovers, etc. I think the book transcended just race.

    This is my first visit. I enjoyed it. I am your new follower too.


  9. Great post. I didn't mind waiting for the recipe. I haven't seen The Help. I thought the book was great and I hate it when films never live up to what's been written. Thanks for another vintage Gourmet recipe!

  10. Looks Yummy,I love prawn or anything with curry,,,and yes ofcourse serve with rice is best to me !

  11. That's a stunning curry! I think I'm the only person in the world right now who's not seen the movie. I know the story, tho and I suspect it'll do well on Oscar night.

  12. I have watch the whole movie but the clips in between and great acting by the wonderful women actresses.

    I am lost at what to comment looking at this prawn curry. Wow, our kind of food and you sure have the skills in making curries. very nice and yes to the rice to go with it.

  13. Cucina49, what a nice curry! The way you photographed the dish makes it so droolworthy! This looks like something I must try out.

  14. Hi!

    Your curry looks surely yumm, very appetizing. Can imagine how well it must have tasted with the prawns and the spices. Funny thing is I have been wondering all my while in india why I never get to see where to buy curry powder. seems to not exist here around.

    thx for sharing!

  15. Hi,
    Growing up in Mumbai, prawn curry was a regular at our place. Piping hot curry with some steamed white rice. This recipe looks amazing. It really reminds me of home.

  16. Ooooo yummy! That prawn curry looks absolutely delicious! Lovely recipe! :)

  17. So spicy and yummy! I could never say no to prawns!

  18. What a lovely Prawn Curry!I can almost taste the flavors in there, hmm yum!

  19. I was just going through my long list of blogs looking for you! Saved me some time when you dropped by! I absolutely love prawn curry and this looks really amazing! Your pics capture it well.

  20. So this is how you make curry! My husband recently tried red curry and fell in love!

  21. nothing better than shrimp and you made it perfection!

  22. curry looks wonderful coconut milk gives a delicious taste

  23. This looks wonderful, full of tons of flavor! Hubby would love this one!

  24. I'll be glued to the set on Monday when we watch the Oscars. I haven't yet seen The Help but I really must. I've heard so many good things about it. Your prawn curry sounds delicious. I like the look of all those ingredients.

  25. I never looked at your blog list. 101 cookbooks journal has recently become one of my favourite site.
    Your gourmet magazine coming in handy. This prawn curry is definitely look yummy!

  26. What a great curried shrimp recipe! I especially love the use of the habanero. It's hot, but it has such a unique and wonderful flavor.

  27. Prawn curry is like comfort food for me! Think I;ll try your recipe the next time round. :)

  28. Mmmmm wow! You did good with the curry!

    Happy Leap Year!

  29. I can't even remember the last time I made a curry. I love to eat them and I love prawns. This sounds delicious.

  30. Your prawn curry looks awesome! We love eating curry and I sometimes make seafood curry. Have a great Sunday!

  31. Mmmmmmmmmm I love prawn curry! This looks DUH-licious ;D

  32. I adore curries. Shrimp, chicken, beef, veggies - you name it. So, it comes as no surprise that my mouth was watering when I opened your page and found this dish. Yum!