India was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I remember stepping off the plane and hitting a wall of a thousand different odours and an intense damp warmth that only made them more intense. Alone and overwhelmed at 2 AM with a lost backpack and absolutely no clue what was going to happen. I called everyone that night, my best friend, my parents, anyone who could tell me I was there for a reason. The streets were full of sleeping bodies, families lying on pavement under just a tarp. Even the highway meridians were clouded with little shelters. I could just barely hold in my tears at seeing this reality. There are no amounts of photos or news stories that can prepare a person for the harsh realities of such extreme poverty and division of wealth. At 19 I was still under the impression that it was my God given right to have everything handed to me on a silver platter. It was clear however that something within me wanted to be woken up. The mitote (haze) lifted a little each day. Every meal felt like such a blessing and I developed this incapacity to waste anything.
The best food was in Kerala in the south of India. They use so much coconut and seafood and the history is very interesting. I remember eating this curry there. The brilliant golden hue and the divine creaminess is hard to forget. It’s a simple yet decadent curry and sometimes it’s made with crab or other types of seafood. It’s the time of year where I start making lots of curries and soups to warm me up and remind me of tropical paradises. Malai Prawn Curry traditionally is a Bengali dish, but everyone has their own version. Malai means cream, but in most cases the creaminess comes from coconut and ghee. The lemongrass isn’t traditional but I thought it added a nice freshness to the dish. Enjoy with basmati rice and fresh coriander.
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 2 green chilis + 1 red chili for extra spice (optional)
- 2 inch piece fresh turmeric OR 1 tsp dried turmeric
- 1 Tbs coconut oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 6 fresh or dried curry leaves
- 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk
- 1 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 20 medium sized raw prawns, peeled and deveined
- Make a paste with the ginger, garlic, chilis and turmeric in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
- In a wok or large skillet heat up the coconut oil. Add mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the paste and the curry leaves.
- Add the coconut milk, sugar, lemongrass, salt, red pepper and prawns and bring to a simmer. Serve as soon as the prawns are fully cooked after about 5 minutes.