Thursday 10 January 2019

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with Arrack

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with Arrack 

There are as many curries as clouds in the sky or stars in the universe! The base of most is some form of coconut. Fresh or dry, milk or cream, sometimes even just coconut water. The coconut flour to thicken and leave an aroma, the coconut oil to enhance the pungent notes of coconut. And then there is the Arrack liquor. A spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut flower. This is local to Sri Lanka but Arracks are also available from other countires  that are made up of fennel (and very liquorice, anise like in flavour, some almost bitter to the taste). 

While this curry tastes fine without any liquor, adding a teaspoon of the flowery kind of coconut Arrack gives it a unique touch, if you get the gentlest note of burning in the throat while eating this with freshly grated ginger rice, you are spot on! It was definitely one of the meals I most enjoyed on my Sri Lankan holiday.

Serves 6

1 tsp oil

4 sliced or diced shallots (long baby onions)
1/2 a fresh ground coconut
2 green chillies
Few sprigs of curry leaves
1 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp green fennel powder
1 tsp sea salt
60 gm/2 oz cream coconut from a hard pack
1 cup water + more if needed
4 small pieces of green pandan leaf
1 tsp Arrack liquor
! tsp red chilli flakes
6 pieces of kokum 

400 gm/1 lb de-veined prawns, washed 

2 tbsp Cashew butter or 1/4 cup cashews ground
Pinch of ground fenugreek
1 cup of coconut water
Pinch of white pepper powder

In a pan heat a teaspoon of oil, add the shallots and saute` them till translucent, soft and pale. On medium heat add the coconut and stir for a minute or two. Add the curry leaves, garlic, cumin, fennel and garam masala powders, giving it a quick stir after each addition. Add the cream of coconut. Add the water, bring it to a boil, cook for 10 minutes on a simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients, adjust for thickness by adding plain or coconut water, bring it to a boil again and cover, cook for 20 minutes on a simmer. Add the prawns cook for 7 minutes and serve with ginger rice. Ginger Rice.


Many of these ingredients can be over powering. Best to start with smaller amounts of white pepper and fenugreek as well as the Arrack.

Gin which is made up of Juniper Berries is the best substitute for the Arrack Liquor. Limoncello the Italian lemon liquor made with vodka is also worth a try.

Kokum is a dried fruit from the mangosteen family. It is dark red in colour and will be tart to the taste. It will be moist and tasty enough to eat once its cooked in the curry and re-hydrated.

This  curry is rough. Its thick and heavily textured and not at all smooth. 

Substituting red chilli powder for the chilli flakes will change the colour of the curry.

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

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