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Mangalorean prawn ghee roast

I was staying at the fabulous Kaav Safari Lodge at Kabini in absolute luxury, with wonderful sightings of tigers at Nagarhole Park and, of course, delicious food that comes out of their open kitchen. I was served this dish for dinner, with about 8 other options, and was completely overwhelmed with the spice and flavors. I had to plead with Sunil, the amazing chef and wonderful person, for the recipe. Like most Mangalorean cuisine, it is full of spices that tingle and then burn your palate. Most recipes are perfected by grandmothers in their kitchens over time and slowly passed down from generation to generation. Closely guarded secret techniques, spice mixes and a host of local ingredients make this cuisine supremely good! Sunil learned this recipe by watching another chef, closely guarded secrets are sometimes "stolen" and then improved upon!

The prawns are spectacular, juicy, coated heavily in a mouth-tingling spice blend that is a burst of flavor and leaves a long lingering heat. The ghee drizzle is the secret to this dish, bathing it in a wonderful flavor and luxury. We enjoyed it with some rice or a local akki roti, they are absolutely irresistible.

If you make it down to KAAV, ask for this dish. Then ask Sunil to make this for you, it is an absolute treat.

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1 lb prawns

1 small onion, finely diced

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

12-15 curry leaves

1/2 cup yogurt

Salt, to taste

For the spice powder:

4-5 dried spicy red chilies, or to taste

5-7 Kashmiri or mild red chilies 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

A pinch fenugreek seeds

15 curry leaves

1/2 cup desiccated coconut (Optional)

For the tempering:

1 1-inch cinnamon stick

1 small bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 dried red chili

10 curry leaves

3 tablespoons ghee + 1 tablespoon to drizzle

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

2-3 teaspoons tamarind paste

Lime juice

Salt, to taste

Water, as needed

Cilantro, to garnish

Marinate the prawns with the onions, garlic paste, curry leaves, yogurt and salt for 1 hour.

While the prawns are marinating, dry roast all the spices individually till they are aromatic and lightly colored. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee mill or a spice grinder. Set aside.

Heat the ghee in a large pot or wok. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, mustard seeds, dried chilies and curry leaves and sauté for 1 minute till the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the onions and sauté till lightly golden. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and sauté till cooked and aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the prawns and fry till the prawns are just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the ground spice powder, tamarind paste and salt and just enough water if needed to make a thick paste. Cook for 5 minutes to dry out the liquids and cook the tamarind. Taste and adjust salt. The prawns should be spicy, juicy and packed with flavor.

Serve hot topped with a spoon of ghee, some cilantro garnish and akki roti or rice.

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