Chemmeen Masala

My chemmeen masala (prawn curry) is a completely experimental dish; I did no research into recipes – I just used the knowledge I’ve gained during the month we’ve been here in Kerala, and let my sense of smell and taste guide me! As such, I make no claim upon this being authentic Keralese cuisine… although our good friend, Sony, said it is absolutely delicious!

In my opinion, it matters not whether a dish is ‘authentic’ – for me, and those I cook for, what is important is that it’s delicious, good food, cooked well!

Local fisherman's wares on the sea front

Incidentally, when I went out to the sea front to buy the prawns for this dish, I decided to try one of the smaller fish-sellers. My choice was quite literally, a little old man, with a little old table, and a few plates of fish and seafood, which he’d caught himself. I bought a kilo of smaller prawns (because I actually think they are better than the really large ones in dishes like this), which cost the grand total of 200 ₹ [rupees] (2.50 GBP / 2,80 € / 3.60 USD). Amazing value… and truly yumsome too!

In case you are wondering what the fishermen here look like, do check out my photography blog!

Anyway, on with the recipe…

Chemmeen Masala

Nutritional values per serving:
Calories: 398
Carbohydrate: 15g
Protein: 21g
Fat: 27g
Sodium: 355mg
(Please note that these are based on the ingredients I used – your own may be slightly different)

For three servings (or two if you’re really hungry!):

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp mustard seeds
3-4 medium green chillis (or 2tsp chilli powder)
1 long pepper, crushed (or 5-10 peppercorns, crushed)
250g onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp coconut
2 tbsp tomato purée
200g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
200ml coconut milk
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
250g small-medium prawns, peeled and cleaned

NOTE: After amato mio used one of my recipes, he suggested I put in a small note to remind people (like him, who are not used to following recipes) to prepare vegetables, prawns etc., and have all your ingredients to hand before you follow the instructions below! 

Heat coconut oil and ghee in a kadai/wok, add mustard seeds and fry for a minute or so, until they begin to pop. Add chilli and pepper, and fry for another minute. Add onions, and fry over a medium heat until they begin to turn golden.


Stir in the ginger and garlic pastes (home made is better but ready-made from a carton/tube works well, and can save a lot of time). Add garam masala, ground coriander, turmeric, and coconut (either finely-chopped fresh or desiccated), and mix in well. Fry for another minute or so, and then add the tomato purée. Mix in well. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the masala starts to come away from the sides of the pan.


Add the fresh tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring all the time to stop them catching. Mix in the coconut milk, cover, and cook on a lowish heat for around five minutes.

coconut milk

Stir in the fresh coriander, then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes then put the lid on the pan, turn off the heat, and leave on the stove for 5-10 minutes. The heat from the sauce will continue to cook the prawns, and there’s less likelihood of them becoming rubbery.


Serve with rice, chapati, parotha… whatever takes your fancy!

chemmeen masala last

Buon appetito!