Prawns of Doom

Prawns of Doom
A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for something I called “Hot and Sour Shrimp Curry“. Well, you could call this one “Hotter and Sourer Shrimp Curry”, or “Shrimp Curry in a Kerala Style, Generally Speaking”. I prefer to call it “Prawns of Doom”. It’s really quite hot, you see; but it’s also very balanced: you don’t feel the full force of the heat till you breathe out; the richness of the coconut milk lulls you and then the heat hits you. And despite the coconut milk it’s also quite sour—unlike the previous recipe, which used tomatoes, the sourness here comes from tamarind and quite a bit of it. It’s a slightly fussy recipe, ingredients and preparation-wise but if you like hot food, give it a go. As noted above, it’s in a very general Kerala/Malayali style. That is to say that the core of the dish is a mash up of some recipes in Vijayan Kannampilly’s Essential Kerala Cookbook and Mrs. Mathew’s Flavours of the Spice Coast, but there are a couple of twists of my own in there. It ends up tasting very much like a Malayali/Kerala dish but it’s not following a traditional recipe.  


  • Shrimp, 1.5 lbs (21-25 ct is what I used but you can go smaller)

    This is in case you don't know what shrimp look like.

    This is in case you don’t know what shrimp look like.

  • Red onion, 1 cup, chopped
  • Ginger, 1.5 tblspns, grated
  • Garlic, 1 tblspn, grated
  • Hot Thai chillies, 4-6, slit
  • Curry leaves, 1 sprig
  • The following ground together into a coarse powder: 1 heaped tblspn hot chilli powder, 1/2 tblspn turmeric powder, 1 tspn each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds
  • Two tablespoon-sized chunks of block tamarind, soaked in 2 cups of hot water and thoroughly squeezed/pulped by hand
  • Coconut milk, 1 cup (as always, I highly recommend Aroy-D’s 100% coconut milk in tetrapaks)
  • Sugar, one pinch (optional)Spices
  • Salt
  • Oil, 1.5 tblspns


  1. Start soaking the tamarind before you prep the other ingredients.
  2. In a saucepan heat the oil and add the onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and slit green chillies. Saute over medium heat till the onions begin to brown along the edges.
  3. Add the ground spices and saute for a few more minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly (and make sure you’ve turned on your range hood/exhaust).
  4. Add the prawns, mix-in and stir-fry till the colour has begun to change all over.Ingredients
  5. Strain the tamarind water into the pot, making sure to squeeze down again on the pulp to extract all the tamarind goodness. Mix and bring to a high simmer.
  6. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Uncover and taste. If it’s far too sour for your liking (keep in mind there’s coconut milk to come) add the optional sugar and mix in.
  8. Add the coconut milk, mix thoroughly, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for a few more minutes.
  9. Serve with steamed rice


  1. You can serve this immediately but it’s best to let it sit for about 30 minutes or so to let the flavours meld a little more.
  2. The sourness will abate on the second day—reheat gently so as to not turn the shrimp to rubber.
  3. The point of this dish is the heat and sourness—don’t cut down on either. If you want a less hot and sour curry try the other recipe.
  4. Good coconut milk is important: that cloying, sweet, artificially thick stuff from cans will muck this up.
  5. All Amazon links are through my associates account, which means I will make a small commission on any purchases you make through them.



3 thoughts on “Prawns of Doom

  1. Made this over the weekend. It was my first time trying Kerala/Malayali style and Im still drooling about it. Extremely spicy, as advertised, but great depth, and a very interesting combination of sweetness and numbing spiciness. Agree that quality coconut milk is very important, unfortunately I did not prepare and my 2 for $1 brand wasn’t swimming well and did not provide enough coconut flavor. Will be making this again for sure and now must find and try more of this style.


    • Very glad to hear. Yes, good coconut milk in the US is not easy. I was actually driven some years ago to purchase a hand-cranked table-top grinder with which I would extract meat from fresh coconuts and extract my own coconut milk! Unfortunately, the pain involved meant I started doing it less and less. A chance purchase of the boxed Aroy-D coconut milk (Amazon-linked in the recipe above) fixed that problem: it’s not quite as good as fresh extracted milk but it’s as close as I’ve been able to come here and it’s far less pain.


      • That sounds like an ancient miserable process. By the way, this dish is just as much doom if not doomer as a left over. Did become a little bitter so again better quality coconut milk and maybe sugar next time.


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