Prawn Malay-curry

This gravy made with prawn and coconut milk originates to Malay Peninsula, part of Southeast Asia. Our dish may be prepared a bit differently, but it is a derivative of what the original recipe was and is very popular in Eastern India, especially in West Bengal. It tastes heavenly when served with white rice.

Serving: 4-5
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes


  • prawns 300gms (medium-sized)
  • onion 2 pieces, medium-sized
  • ghee/clarified butter 1 tea-spoonful
  • bay leaves 2 pieces
  • cardamom 4 pieces
  • red chili 2 pieces, chopped
  • cinnamon sticks 2 small pieces
  • cloves 4-5 pieces
  • cumin seeds 1 tea-spoonful/5 ml (optional)
  • coconut milk/cream 300 ml
  • oil (of your choice) 1 table-spoonful/15 ml
  • ginger powder
  • paprika powder
  • white pepper
  • turmeric powder
  • brown sugar
  • garam masala/4 spices powder (ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon)
  • salt according to taste
  • nutmeg powder
  • onions for garnish


  • Cut the onions in strips and keep them aside.
  • Chop up the dried red chilies.
  • Clean the prawns. Defrost the prawns if you are using frozen prawns. Keep the water after defrosting them, use it later as prawn stock.
  • Heat a flat pan and add half tea-spoonful of oil.
  • Lightly glaze the prawns in the oil. Sprinkle some salt on the prawns, turn them and fry till golden on both sides. Do not over-fry them as this will make them chewy. Keep them aside.
  • Take another pan and heat 3/4 table-spoonful of oil of your choice in it. Add a tea-spoonful of ghee or clarified butter in it. In the absence of it, you can simply skip it or add a tea-spoonful of butter.
  • Add bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon sticks, chopped dry red chilies, cumin seeds to the oil. Open the cardamoms a bit with your nails to get the seeds a little exposed and add them to the oil. Stir them for a minute.
  • Add the chopped onion to the oil and fry it for 5 minutes.
  • When the onions become translucent, add the ginger powder, paprika powder, white pepper, turmeric powder and mix well with the onions. Add salt according to your taste, remember you also fried the prawns with a bit of salt, so don’t overdo it. If the mixture becomes dry and starts sticking to the bottom of your pan, add a little water and fry some more till the onions are fried, light brown and the spices are cooked.
  • Add the coconut cream/milk to the pan and mix well with the spices and fried onions.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Take of the lid, add the fried prawns, mix well and put the lid on for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the brown sugar to the gravy. In absence, feel free to add sweeteners of your choice, white sugar or honey/syrups. Just remember, this dish is supposed to taste on the sweeter side. The coconut milk will also add to the sweetness of the dish.
  • Take the lid off, add the garam masala or 4 spices powder and nutmeg powder to the pan.
  • Stir them well, turn the heat off and put the lid on. Keep it on for 5 minutes so that the spices seeps into the gravy well.


  • Serve it hot with rice. We prefer basmati rice with this gravy, but any rice of your choice will do.
  • You can keep it in the refrigerator and eat a couple more days. Heat well before enjoying it.
  • Serve it with some chopped onions on the side.
  • Garam masala is available these days in all Indian or Asian shops. Look into your local supermarket if they have a wide stock of international spices. In absence, add 4 spices powder, which are more common in western countries, else add the four spices (ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon) in equal amount to reach the similar aroma and taste. We love the smell of nutmeg more, so I add nutmeg powder separately.

Some moments during…

Ingredients in a frame
Fried onions

My food story

Prawns used to be expensive, and as I grew up in a lower-middle class family, it used to feel like a festival on the days this dish was prepared at home. I still can’t make it as good as my Mom makes it. It was a typical dish, which was generally served to guests who visited our place. So, a lot of nostalgia and even more taste. I hope you love it too.

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With love, always,

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