The King of Spices -Pepper, it has been the most sought after spice long before the time of Alexander's conquest of India. Many continents were discovered in the plight to find and grow this medicinal spice. But, the Malabar Coast of India proudly boasts of the best possible bounty of pepper and it flourishes in the warm and humid Monsoon forests in the state of Kerala. Pepper has always been used for stomach aches, digestive ailments and even for slight fevers in the East. It is said that the monks of India were advised to swallow 7-9 whole pepper beads every day to protect their immune systems while on long treks. Above all, pepper was so valuable that it was even used to pay taxes!!
As we all know, coastal regions like this also get the freshest seafood so large shrimp or prawns as they are lovingly called are plentiful. That's how the cool Prawn met his match in the warm black pepper and the wedlock of a Prawn Pepper Fry was established. This recipe is a true favorite in my family and one that was handed down from my grandmother and my aunt.
Although I've made this fry many times with North-Atlantic shrimp, I've come to the conclusion that there's nothing like the sweet flavor of shrimp from the Arabian Sea or Malabar Coast to get the real authentic taste. The pepper does not overpower the shrimp or the rest of the ingredients. Instead, this match made in heaven is blissful-the sweetness of the shrimp, caramelized onions and the slight hint of pepper in the background enhanced by an abundance of curry leaves makes this Prawn Fry my very special side dish. My first cousin M is known for making one of the best versions of this Prawn fry--- I love the way you make it M and this one is for you.
Medium to large shrimp- 2 lbs
Spanish Onions-2 large or Shallots-7-8
Ginger paste-1 tspn
Curry leaves- 2-3 spring/stems
Turmeric powder-1/2 tspn
Chilli powder- 1 tspn
Coriander Powder- 2tspn
Fennels eed powder-1 tspn
Ripe Beefsteak Tomato- 1 chopped
Cilantro stems chopped-1 Tblspn (After using the fresh delicate leaves of the cilantro, the stem that holds them together do not have to be tossed, this part holds the best flavor of the cilantro)
Coconut Slices-6(Since I had freshly grated coconut I have used that in my recipe) - 1 Tbslpsn
Mustard seeds-1 tspn, olive oil and salt to taste
Freshly Ground Kerala Masala: Roast these spices lightly and grind in a coffee grinder:
5 cloves , 4 bay leaves, 1 " cinnamon stick, 1/4 whole nutmeg, 2 cardamoms, 1/2 tspn black pepper and 1 star anise.
Shell, devein, wash and drain the shrimp well into a bowl. Add enough salt, ginger paste, chili and turmeric powder in the shrimp and toss well. Keep aside.
In a Wok or frying pan, add about 2-3 Tblspns of Olive oil. When the oil is hot enougha dd mustard seeds and 1/2 the curry leaves and let the seeds splutter. Add finely chopped Spanish onions and green chilles and saute on a low to medium flame until the onions lets off caramel aroma and starts getting golden brown. Toss the chopped tomato and suate until the mixture loses most of the moisture,
Add the coriander powder, cilantro stems and a little turmeric powder and saute until the raw smell is gone. Toss in the Shrimp and stir fry until it is just cooked and dry roasted. Do not overcook the shrimp or it will be tough to eat. Add about 2 Tspns of the Freshly Ground Kerala Masala, Fennel seed powder and the rest of the Curry leaves. Remove from fire and immediately add more freshly grated pepper if desired along with the coconut slices. Serve hot.