Prawn curry is an ubiquitous dish; whether you’re in Kerala, Ko Pha-Ngan, Kuala Lumpur or Kalimantan, there’s a fair chance that a vendor nearby is serving their trademark take on the fiery flavours. This dish borrows from many of the amazing prawn curries that I’ve come across. It’s a great way to introduce a meal – light but punchy, which opens up the palate for what’s to follow.
240g raw Sicilian red prawns, peeled with heads removed, or tiger prawns
For the coconut gel
250g coconut purée
1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder
For the Black Curry Sauce :
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 fresh long red chilli, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, rough chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons very finely ground
Sri Lankan black curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons smoked olive oil
For the cure :
100g sea salt
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
finely grated zest of ½ grapefruit
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
To garnish :
cucumber flowers in season and other edible flowers
pickled baby shallots,
red-veined sorrel cress
The coconut gel can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the fridge in a squeezy bottle or piping bag fitted with a small round tip until required.
Rinse a shallow baking tray with water, then pour out the water and set the tray aside. Do not rinse the tray. Clip a thermometer to the inside of a small saucepan. Combine the coconut purée and agar agar in a saucepan and bring just to 100°C, whisking constantly for 2 minutes until the powder dissolves completely – put some of the mixture in clean spoon and look closely for any specks of agar agar. Immediately remove from the heat. Do not boil. Pour the mixture into the prepared tray and leave to cool completely. Cover and chill until it is lightly set.
Meanwhile, to make the curry sauce, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, cover, reduce the heat to low and sweat for about 2–3 minutes. Add the chillies and garlic, re-cover and continue sweating until softened but not coloured. Add the cumin seeds and black curry powder and stir for 2 minutes, or until they are aromatic. Add the sugar and soy sauce and continue stirring until the liquid reduces by one-third. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Tip the mixture into a blender or food processor and blitz, slowly adding the smoked olive oil towards the end. Adjust the seasoning, as necessary, with sugar and salt to taste until there is an even balance of spices. The amount you need of either will vary throughout the year depending on the chilli. Cover and set aside.
Ten minutes before you plan to serve, mix together all the ingredients for the cure. Spread one-third of the mixture in a non-metallic bowl large enough to hold the prawns in a single layer. Arrange the prawns on top, cover with the remaining mixture and set aside for 10 minutes. Remove the prawns from the cure, rinse well and pat dry.
Blitz the coconut gel in a small food processor until it is liquifies.
To serve, spoon a pool of coconut gel in the centre of each plate. Add the prawns, sprinkle with the coconut crumble and the other garnishes as shown in the photograph, then serve immediately.