Chilli & Coconut Prawn Fry, South Indian Style

Chilli & Coconut Prawn Fry, South Indian Style

To call something ‘South Indian’ is to make a broad, sweeping statement because the parts of India covered by that description, though similar, are also as diverse as they can get. India is a huge country, yes, but what’s more fascinating is that it feels like several countries rolled into one. The culture, the language, the cuisine, the religious demographics change every few miles, which is why it is never a good idea to generalise anything about India.

So why did I do it then? Because my recipe has no particular provenance – I just made it up to satisfy the craving I had for something hot & something sour to go with my rice and dal. And it contains ingredients used commonly in the five states that fit snugly in the triangle that is the south of India – curry leaves, coconut and tamarind.

Four out of these five states that are considered South India have some of the longest coastlines in the country, which of course means that seafood makes for a major part of local cuisines.

This is meant to be hot and sour but there’s nothing to stop you from making it not-so-hot and/or not-so-sour. You are welcome to take liberties and even add more sugar for a sweet and sour dish.

I like eating this with rice, but dosas or appams make good accompaniments too.

Coconut & Chilli Prawn Fry

Chilli & Coconut Prawn Fry South Indian Style

A hot and sour dry prawn dish with curry leaves, coconut and chilli.
5 from 2 votes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6


  • A cast iron pan is highly recommended.


  • 750 g uncooked tiger prawns weight without shells
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ - 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil measured in liquid state
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 large onions, sliced vertically into half moons 250 g approximate peeled weight
  • 4 fat cloves garlic peeled & sliced
  • 1 fresh red chilli optional, but adds beautiful colour
  • tsp fenugreek (methi) seed powder If not available, add 2 tsp kasuri methi
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp extra hot chilli powder for less heat, use Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar or grated jaggery


  • If prawns were frozen and then defrosted, make sure they are drained well of any liquid. In a large bowl, combine them with salt and chilli powder, set aside.
  • In a large frying pan, preferably cast iron, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat and add the curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds, then add the onions, garlic and the fresh red chilli.
  • Fryfor 5 - 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are golden brown and char in places.
  • Sprinkle the fenugreek powder (or kasuri methi) and fry for a few seconds, stirring. You should be able to smell the spice now.
  • Add the tomato puree, chilli powder, fresh coconut, tamarind paste, coriander powder and the sugar. Fry until the oil comes out of the mixture. This could take a few minutes. If you want to hurry the process, add another tbsp of coconut oil. It is important to fry the mixture very well at this point before the prawns go in.
  • When the tomato chilli mixture looks fried, add the prawns, mix well and fry until the prawns are cooked.
  • Taste, adjust the salt, heat and sourness to your preference. Enjoy with steamed rice.
Keyword chillies, coconut, curry leaves, hot, indian, prawns, shrimps, sour, south indian, spicy, tamarind