The third delicious entry in our Men Who Cook series is an incredibly simple dish of Coastal Prawns shared with us by Mahesh Shenoy. An ex-model, enthusiastic cricketer and dedicated gym buff, Mahesh is one of the fittest young dads around. You know Marshall and Lily on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother? Mahesh and his wife Vandana are the real life version of that fantastic couple. Completely in sync and balancing each other out, they and their daughter Maanya make an adorable family.
Mahesh also happens to be an enthusiastic, and more importantly, good cook. These Coastal Prawns, called Sungta Phannah Upkari in Konkani, blew us away with the gorgeous flavors and surprised us when we saw the list of ingredients. There’s almost no masala in the dish and yet it packs a massive flavor punch. This is the brilliant thing about exploring the diverse food cultures of our country. There’s so much to be learned.
Coastal Prawns Recipe (Sungta Phannah Upkari)
5-6 tbs Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Mustard sSeeds
10-12 Curry Leaves
2 medium sized Onions, finely chopped
6-7 medium sized dried Red Chili Peppers (Based on your appetite for spice, choose between Kashmiri, Bedgi or Pandey dried chillies, each in increasing order of heat)
One small marble sized ball of Tamarind
300 grams fresh peeled and deveined Prawns
Salt to taste
Soak the tamarind in a couple of spoons of warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Make a fine paste of the chili, the soaked tamarind and a little water.
Place the prawns in a pressure cooker with just enough water to soak all the prawns. Cook on a medium flame and turn it off after one whistle. Do not open the lid yet. This is a little trick that makes sure the prawns remain soft irrespective of cooking time in the pan.
Heat the oil in a pan and throw in the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. Wait for the mustard seeds to pop and then add the finely chopped onions. Wait till they are golden brown.
Add the chili tamarind paste to the onions. Simmer for 10 mins on a medium flame. This will make sure that the onions and tamarind reduce the level of spice and you will still have the red richness of the gravy. Open the pressure cooker and add all of the prawns into the pan. Pour half the amount of water used to cook the prawns from the cooker to the cooking pan. Add salt to taste. Simmer (without a lid on the pan) for another 15 mins allowing the prawns to soak all the flavour and also thickening the gravy in the process.
Garnish with slivers of spring onion or some coriander.
Note: This dish goes really well with ‘Dalitoy’ (Mangalorean dal) and steamed rice.