Malabar Shrimp Curry

Malabar Shrimp (prawn) curry is a spicy seafood curry from the coastal regions of south india. Succulent shrimp in a coconut laced sauce which is aromatic from fenugreek seeds and tangy from tamarind. This recipe has a burst of heat from green chilies and red chili powder and deep fragrant flavor from fresh curry leaves – all balanced by the sweetness of coconut milk.

I first tried this curry couple years back at a friends house and loved it at first bite. I asked her a rough recipe and then forgot about it until recently when I spotted it again on menu of one of the restaurants here in Las Vegas. That is when I decided to recreate from what I remembered of the recipe, the way it looked and smelled. Cooking is truly an amalgamation of senses and nostalgic in my case, if you cannot tell 🙂

My husband is a huge fan of south indian non vegetarian curries and both my kids share my love of seafood and at least once a week I make shrimp or fish curry. I cooked this delicious curry earlier this week and they lapped it up with steamed basmati rice and cucumbers (they do need a cooling side to curries :)) Serve this flavorful malabar shrimp curry with rice, pappadams and yogurt for a delicious meal.

How to Cook Shrimp Perfectly Each Time?

I often get asked how to cook shrimp so that they don’t end up chewy or tough. Here are few tips I keep in mind to make sure to cook perfect shrimp every time.:-

  • Size of Shrimp – For curries, I always prefer wild caught or sustainably raised extra large or jumbo size shrimp. That way you can cook them with the curry sauce longer to absorb the flavors without overcooking.
  • Frozen Versus Thawed :- Unless I make impromptu meals, I always prefer to thaw the frozen shrimp overnight in the fridge. There are two ways in which this helps. First being that it wont make you curries watery. Second the shrimp cooks evenly and is much succulent. However, if you want to use shrimp straight from the freezer, remember to add them to a much thicker sauce and cook them on low heat.
  • Time of cooking :- Time of cooking depends on the size of shrimp you are using. Always cook shrimp on low heat. If you are using small or medium shrimp, often the heat of the curry sauce is enough to cook them through. I usually add them to sauce, stir for a couple minutes or so, cover and switch off the stove. They cook perfectly in residual heat. For large shrimp, about 5 -6minutes on cooking in low medium heat is perfect. For extra large and jumbo sizes, I do not go beyond 7-9minutes on low medium heat. Please always check the time of cooking mentioned behind the package you buy and use the times I have mentioned accordingly.
  • Shell on:- These days many stores sell cleaned shell on shrimp. For the best flavor of shrimp try cooking them shell on with the curry sauce.The flavor the shell imparts is impeccable though there is extra effort needed when you eat them 🙂

Few more things to keep in mind when you make this recipe :-

  • Coconut Paste :- For this recipe, you will need you will make a coconut paste with ginger, garlic & green chilies. Use fresh desiccated coconut or if you have dry desiccated coconut powder at home, not a problem, just add a little hot water while blending it.
  • Coconut Milk :- Unsweetened, full fat organic coconut milk is the best. If you are using homemade, go for the thick first extract.
  • Chilies :- This recipe uses 3 kinds of chilies – green, dried red chilies and kashmiri chili powder(mainly for the color). You can adjust the chili depending on how you like. Using this recipe, the curry will be pretty hot like the traditional ones.
  • Variations :- If you have someone who does not eat seafood, you can add boiled eggs to the same curry vase and make malabar egg curry. I do it many times for my husband. For vegetarians, you can also add cauliflower or peas to the coconut sauce.

Malabar Shrimp Curry

Malabar Shrimp (or prawn) curry is a spicy seafood curry from the coastal regions of south india. Succulent shrimp in a coconut laced sauce which is aromatic from fenugreek seeds and tangy from tamarind. Perfect with steamed rice.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3


Marinate the Shrimp

  • 18-20 jumbo or extra large shrimp, shelled, deveined and thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the Coconut Paste

  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 4 birds eye green chili, adjust to tolerance
  • 4 garlic cloves,peeled
  • 1 inch fresh ginger shoot, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 3 tablespoon hot water, or as needed

Make the Curry

  • 3-4 tablespoon mustard oil or cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 3 whole dried chilies
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • 2 medium tomatoes, pureed in blender
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish


  • Pat the shrimp dry using a paper towel. Place in a bowl, sprinkle turmeric kashmiri chili powder and salt.Marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the ingredients listed under coconut paste into a blender jar. Blend to make a smooth paste. Keep ready.
  • In a shallow pan, warm up 2 tbsp of oil. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Sear for a minute on each side and remove in a plate. Dont cook the shrimp all the way.
  • Add another 2 tablespoon of oil to the same pan. Once warm, temper with mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the fenugreek seeds and dried chilies. Let cook for 30 seconds. Then add the chopped onions and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Next, add the curry leaves along with the kashmiri chili powder. Also add the coconut paste. Saute on low heat for 3-4 minutes until you see the masala glistening.
  • Add the pureed tomatoes and cook again for 3 minutes or so until you see oil separating on the sides. At this point add the coconut milk and 1/3 to 1/2 cup warm water. Let the coconut milk simmer for 3 minutes, don't let boil.
  • Add the seared shrimp to the simmering oconumt milk, add salt and on low medium heat cook for maximum 5-6 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. If you feel that the sauce is thickish, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup additional water.
  • Finish with tamarind and don't cook a lot after adding tamarind. Take off the stove and garnish with cilantro and serve warm.

2 thoughts on “Malabar Shrimp Curry

  1. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, poet, quilter. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. After many years of daily serving up of our local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, cooking classes, etc. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible people have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, but now turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. I write poetry as the spirit wills, and the occasional short story. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat meat or dairy (usually), I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been know to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me as well as the youngers in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to read. I enjoy taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary penpals! XXXOOO
    Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen on said:

    This looks beyond wonderful!

Leave a Reply