Fresh coconut prawns

This is Bombay’s surf and turf. Coconuts and prawns are two of the most ubiquitous ingredients available in the city. Tropical coconut trees line most streets and the coast of Bombay is flanked by the Arabian Sea to the west, south and east making for a rich supply of seafood – especially big fat juicy prawns.

Together they are an old married couple one bringing out the best in the other and improved only with a bit of spiciness: some zest (coriander), some bite (pepper) some earth (cumin) and a little sweetness (fennel).

As winter attempts to pole vault into summer here and the nights are still sultry this dish makes for a perfect light and fresh end to another day here in the metropolis.

(For tips on how to crack a coconut, see here)

coconut prawns

Fresh coconut prawns

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 50 – 75g fresh coconut
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 600g large prawns, deveined
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

First toast the spices and fresh coconut. Get a pan nice and hot over a medium heat and add to it the coriander, fennel, cumin, pepper and red chillies. Swirl the seeds around the pan until you see the coriander change from a meadow to a golden green. Then add the coconut and stir-fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to colour, then take the pan off the heat and grind the spices together (in a spice/ coffee grinder or in a pestle and mortar) with just enough water to make a paste and leave to one side.

coconut prawn paste

 Next, add the oil to the same pan and when hot, add the sliced onions. Cook the onions over a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until they are soft then add the garlic. Stir fry the garlic another couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring every couple of minutes until they become mushy.

Now add the coconut and spice paste to the pan and stir to mix, heat through for a few minutes and then add the prawns. Again, stirring to mix. Depending on the size of your prawns, they should take around 4 to 5 minutes to cook. Add the salt, little by little and take off the heat.

Serve with fresh hot chapattis (and a small cold beer).