Spicy Prawn Masala (Eral Thokku) & Panch Phoron Recipes

Besides the staple Chinese meals, the 3 most popular cuisines my family enjoys on frequent basis are Indian, Italian and Japanese (not in order of preferences). However, when it comes to cooking Indian, Valerie still has a long way to go so the task of preparing Indian meals falls solely upon me whenever the spice bug bites!

Mise en place for Spicy Prawn Masala.

600g Prawns, shelled and deveined.
1 tablespoon minced Ginger.
1 tablespoon minced Garlic.
1 Onion (about 250g), to be chopped finely.
2 Tomatoes (about 150g), chopped.
1 Bay Leaf, optional.
2 sprigs Curry Leaves.
1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds, or Fennel Seeds, or *Panch Phoron.
Pinch (¼ tsp) of Turmeric Powder.
1 tablespoon Coriander Powder.
2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder, or according to taste.
1 teaspoon Fish Curry Powder (if you do not have this, skip it).
1 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder.
Salt, to taste.
½ cup Water, optional (see note).
4-6 tablespoons Ghee or Vegetable Oil.
Chopped Cilantro Leaves, for garnish.

Marinade for Prawns
½ teaspoon Salt.
¼ teaspoon Pepper Powder, optional.
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice.

Clean the prawns, shell and devein them.

Marinate prawns with salt, pepper powder and lemon juice. Set aside to let marination take place for at least half an hour. You can also prepare this earlier and keep prawns in fridge until needed.

On medium-high heat, heat oil in a pan until it is simmering. Add fennel seeds, curry leaves and finely chopped onion. Sprinkle a little salt, spread them out evenly over the pan and let them cook.

When the onions turn translucent, add ginger-garlic paste and sauté until the raw smell dissipates.

Add tomatoes and sprinkle a bit more salt to help it cook faster. When the tomatoes are well-cooked, add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala and salt, stir well and let it cook till oil separates from the masala (spice mixture).

Add the marinated prawn to the spice mixture and stir to make sure all the prawns are coated with the masala, about a couple minutes. Then let the prawns cook in its own juice before adding *half a cup of water to the curry. Skip the following step if not using water.

Reduce heat from high to medium-high if gravy evaporates too much too quickly. Remember to scrape the bottom of the pan every now and then when you’re cooking to prevent masala from sticking and getting burnt.

The layer of curry paste sticking to the sides of the pan is flavour, do scrape them with a spatula and return them to the curry. Stir-fry until the prawns are curled up and the curry turns into a thick, dark reddish brown gravy (thokku). Add some chopped cilantro and stir to mix.

Turn off heat and garnish with more cilantro, and a lemon wedge if desired.

Enjoy this spicy prawn masala with basmati rice (recipe links below) or naan.

Original Indian recipe for this dish only uses prawn meat, meaning no head or tail intact. I like prawn heads so I left them on but it didn’t make the dish taste any better therefore I will remove the prawn shells completely next time and save them (freeze) for Prawn Noodle Soup stock!

If you are really really lazy or pressed for time, you may skip the prawn marination step completely. With all the spices and right amount of salt, the dish will still taste good.

Also, I think I will use red onions instead of yellow as I find them sweeter and more flavourful.

This dish can be cooked almost-dry-moist version or with little gravy. Omit or adjust water according to taste. If you are not planning on using water, cook on medium to low heat to retain moistness.

The longer you cook, the darker and more pasty the gravy will become but the prawns will also be firmer and not so juicy since prawns get cooked in a short time so the duration of cooking is up to your personal preference.

Spicy Prawn Masala (Eral Thokku).

“Panch Phoron” literally means 5 spices. All of the spices in panch phoran are whole seeds. Typically, panch phoran consists of fenugreek (methi) seed, nigella ( kalonji) seed, cumin (zeera) seed, black mustard (rai) seed and fennel (sauf) seed.

You can get a ready mix of panch phoron in most Indian spice shops or you can buy the different ingredients and mix them together in equal quantities and keep it in dry sterilised jar. Keep in cool dry place for future use. Panch Phoron are good for Indian-style fish and seafood curries and much more, i.e. I used them for cabbage stir-fries, too!

Some of the common Indian ground and whole spices: Red Chilli Powder, Coriander Powder, Turmeric Powder, Garam Masala, Cumin Powder, Panch Phoron and Curry Leaves.

P.S. You may have noticed that my curry leaves did not looked fresh and that’s because curry leaves from the supermarkets are usually sold in quantities more than we’ll ever need in one cooking. So to waste not, I freeze them sometimes or just keep them in the vegetable/fruits compartment in the fridge. They are still good to use.

Happy cooking, eating and bonding! 🙂

Flavoured Rice Recipes
Click to see Basmati Rice here.
Click to see Persian Rice here.
Click to see Biryani Rice here.

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