Sri Lankan Prawn Curry Going Global

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry Going Global

Master Chef, Raghavan Iyer passed away a few months after talking to the media about his legendary Sri Lankan Prawn curry. This was one of the last interviews he did and since his death, many Sr Lankan restaurants in London, and Melbourne have added Ceylon Prawan curry to the menu.


Raghavan Iyer, has authored several cookbooks and On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World is a best seller Just before his death he talked about “how British colonisers in the 19th Century grew to like what he calls the saucy flavours of Indian food so much that they got their cooks to “pound the spices together and put them in a jar” so they could carry them back to England. “They labelled it curry powder, and that’s how the rest of the world knows it,” he explained.
He said that his book isa “love letter to the world of curries” and hoped it would be his “lasting legacy to the richness and vastness of this dish simply called curry”.

The Sri Lankan prawn curry which is spreading like wildfire after the death of Raghavan Iyer isa living testimony of his unending passion for curry.
His recipe for prawn curry with darkened cinnamon, though, is from  Sri Lanka, a country with its own unique culinary traditions, one of which is the dark roasting of whole spices to release the flavours completely. Sri Lankan food, with its rich coconut milk gravies and liberal use of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, was top on the list of Iyer favourites.

Recipe:  Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with Darkened Cinnamon
By Raghavan Iyer
(serves 4)
3 sticks cinnamon
2 tsp Madras curry powder
6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 slices fresh ginger (each about the size of a quarter/2.4cm), finely chopped
450g (1lb) large prawns, peeled and deveined, but tails left on
2 tbsp coconut or canola oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
1 can (14oz/400ml) unsweetened coconut milk
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh curry leaves
2 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Step 1
Preheat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot (holding your palm close to the base, you should feel the heat within 5 seconds), break up the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces for an even toast and throw them in the pan. Toast, stirring constantly or shaking the pan very often, until they darken further and smell incredibly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer them to a spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder), and allow the pieces to cool, about 5 minutes. Pulverise the cinnamon to the texture of finely ground black pepper.
Step 2
Combine the cinnamon, curry powder, garlic and ginger in a large bowl; add the prawns and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
Step 3
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the mustard seeds, cover and cook until the seeds have stopped popping, about 30 seconds. Immediately add the prawns in a single layer and sear them for about 30 seconds on each side.
Step 4
Shake the coconut milk well and pour it in. Add the curry leaves, peppercorns and salt. Bring the curry to a boil and continue to cook until the prawns curl and turn salmon in colour, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prawns to a serving platter. Keep warm.
Step 5
Continue to cook the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the prawns and serve.
Never buy ground cinnamon as the oils in it dissipate in aroma and flavour. You are far better off grinding the whole sticks just before use.
Fresh curry leaves provide a mild citrusy flavour and intense aroma. Remove the leaves from the stem by sliding your fingers down the stem.
(Excerpted from On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World by Raghavan Iyer. Workman Publishing © 2023.)

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