Mamaiji’s Red Prawn Curry


Parsi Prawn Red Curry plated

The red curry rice is a stock dish in any Parsi household and like Dhansak there are numerous versions of making this favourite with each child claiming that their mum’s curry cannot possibly be beaten. Well, I am here to break that myth and introduce you to my Mamaiji’s Red Curry.

While I learnt cooking when I was about ten, I learnt to eat, and importantly, to enjoy food much earlier. At four years old to be precise. My memory fails me, but mum says she has never seen a child eat the way I used to – slowly, with eyes closed, relishing each bite to the fullest.

The family tale goes that mum first noticed me doing this when I was served a bowl of my Mamaiji’s (maternal grandmother) Prawn Curry Rice. Mamaiji was so ecstatic with my reaction, that from that moment on until the time I moved cities at 11 whenever I visited Mamaiji the first dish that would be made was her signature Prawn Red Curry and Rice.

Parsi Prawn Red Curry Served

In fact, I loved it so much, that once when I was sitting on her lap and she asked me what I wanted were she ever to pass away; I innocently told her that all I really wanted was a big never-ending bowl of her curry that I could always have and remember her by. Mamaiji passed away a few years ago and I was distraught. I realized that I never got around to learning her curry and that I no longer had anything special of hers that I could treasure.

A few months later, when trawling through old books, my mum and me came across a tattered diary filled with scribbles of recipes and names of suppliers that offered the best produce in Bombay. In it was a page titled ‘Curry Recipe for my Dear Grand-Daughter’. We set aside the other mess and immediately headed to the kitchen to try out the recipe.

The curry came out just as I remembered Mamaiji making it. In that minute, I was transported back to my childhood – me licking my fingers clean while she smiled proudly at me, her peculiar ‘Eau de Mamaiji’ all pervading.

Home-cooked food is special, not just for the taste but for the story each dish weaves around it. Most people can make a decent curry but for me Mamaiji’s Curry is the only way that curry should be cooked. And each time I share this recipe; I hope that another daughter feels more connected to her roots, one curry bowl at a time. Do note, this recipe tastes best with prawns. You can however substitute for chicken or mutton based on your family’s preferences 🙂 Ingredients for the curry below as always.

Before you make the curry masala accumulate everything you will need onto one plate – this makes life easier once you start roasting and grinding.

Curry Masala Raw

Once ready, dry roast all the seeds, peanuts, and cashews until their aroma starts wafting in the kitchen.

Roasting seeds for Prawn Red Curry

Now, blend the seed mixture along with the coconut, garlic, chilies and tomatoes adding water as needed to make a thick paste. Keep grinding until you have a fine paste

Curry Masala Ground

While grinding the masala, you also need to marinate about the prawns in a turmeric, red chilli powder and salt marinade and set aside for about half an hour.

Marinated prawns

Once this is all ready, in a crockpot add some oil and fry the wheat flour making sure no lumps remain. Add in the curry masala and saute for about 5 mins until the wheat flour is mixed well into the masala and the masala no longer sticks to the sides of the crockpot.

Next, add the turmeric, red chilli and curry powder along with water into the crockpot to get the curry to the right consistency. Ensure that you don’t put too much water. Add in the prawns and 3 -4 chopped potatoes into the crockpot and let the curry simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the prawns are cooked.

Curry Bubbling

Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and some curry leaves. Enjoy with Fluffy Steamed Rice and some Bawa Kachumbar

Red Curry_Final Bowl

To make enough for 6 you will need:

For the curry masala
1/2 fresh coconut chopped into pieces
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
50 gm. raw peanuts
30 gm. chopped cashews
10 cloves of garlic
15 dried Kashmiri chilies
3 small tomatoes chopped

For the prawn marinade
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. red chilly powder
½ tsp. salt
For the curry
350 gms of prawns shelled and de-veined but with tails on
2 tbsp. wheat flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. red chilly powder
1 tsp. curry powder
Salt to taste
2 large potatoes quartered

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  1. aafrin says

    I am going to make this curry very soon. Thanks for the recipe. My man is always complaining that my curry, although very tasty, does not have that authentic red/orange color that his mom’s curry had (she passed away quite a while ago). Hope your curry will have that color which he is yearning for.

    Also, I usually add gram flour (chanano aatto) whereas you are using whole wheat flour. Like I said, this is to be tried soon. Will post again with results.

    • says

      Thanks Aafrin – yes this curry does have the authentic red colour. I believe that comes from the Dry red Kashmiri chillies and also the raw peanuts in the masala. The flour is used as a binding agent so that the masala doesnt separate from the water so I don’t think the change in flour would effect the taste. Look forward to hearing from you – do share photos and your man’s reactions 🙂 Remember to serve with some yummy Kachumbar if you are onion fans like me!

  2. kaanchan says

    Hi Perzen, which curry powder do you use at the end?………”Next, add 1 tsp each of turmeric, red chilli and curry powder along with water into the crockpot to get the curry to the right consistency.”

      • Nikhil says

        “Next, add the turmeric, red chilli and curry powder along with water into the crockpot to get the curry to the right consistency.”

        what curry masala powder you use?

        • says

          Hi Nikhil,

          Motilal Masala and other grocery stores near Parsi colonies will stock a Parsi curry masala powder which is what I use. If you can’t find that then a regular curry powder will also do.

  3. Ruksheen says

    I am so happy that I came across your website! I have a similar story to yours! Used to love my mamaijis Curry chawal…but now shes got Alzeihmers so cant remember any recipes…spent so many years trying to talk to so many family members for the perfect recipe which would taste just like hers but never found it till i saw this one!! I just finished cooking it and all I can say is THANKS for sharing this.. It has helped me relive a memory

    • says

      Hi Ruksheen,

      All i can say is Wow. Thanks for sharing your story and it makes me so happy to know that you were able to reconnect with your childhood memories thanks to the recipe – my mamaiji will indeed be very happy 🙂

  4. Ghaver Adi Dhanbhoora says

    If the red curry is not to be very spicy, is red chillies necessary? Or else, how many to put in without the seeds.

    • says

      Ghaver – the red Kashmiri chillies are an essential part of the red curry masala and to give it the red colour. What I suggest is that you skip out on adding the red chilli powder that we add later when frying the masala and you can also add some lemon juice to tone down the spice level. Try these first before and if it’s still too spicy only then reduce the Kashmiri chillies and/or the seeds.

  5. says

    Hey. Great recipe. thanks for sharing.. though, have been making it for sometime with my mom’s proportions, never thought of adding aato (flour and that too wheat flour) in the recipe.. Will try that the next time around. Proportions are quite delicate in the curry. I keep making it and keep getting different results.

    Would it be different for fish curry (king fish / pomfret) or would you keep it same?

    • says

      I’ve never changed the proportions and go to the extent of weighing the peanuts with my electronic scale 🙂 Roasting the wheat flour will ensure that the oil from your curry and the water don’t separate and it gives you a thicker richer curry – give it a try once. This is the same mix I use for all kinds of fish. I prefer the green curry for mutton and chicken.


    loved your mamaiji’s prawn curry, wanted a recipe of potato chicken cheese pattice also called the Russian Pattice. do u conduct parsee food & other cuisine classes very intested do contact thks Arnaaz Mistry

  7. Amy says

    Thank you for the recipe. Makes me nostalgic. Btw, a chef’s tip I saw was to first grind masala coarsely, then add water, if needed, to make a fine paste. Pani won’t chuto if you do that. Im reluctant to add aato, so will try this recipe without and let you know.

  8. Amy says

    I was worried the wheat flour would affect the taste, but then slapped myself on the head and decided to bow to your expertise. Thanks, Perzin. Have made masala, but couldn’t make the curry yet. So looking forward to it.

    • Rusi says

      million thanks Perzen… Have a few questions pl. 1) How to ensure that masala of the curry finally does not taste raw? It did once. What could have gone wrong? 2) Can I add curry leaves in the main cooking ? if yes, how n when ?

      • says

        Hi Rusi, to ensure the masala doesn’t taste raw you need to fry the masala in oil until it leaves the sides of the pan and tastes cooked. Also, once you add the water to form the curry you will need to further cook it for 15 – 20 minutes and that should get rid of the raw taste for sure. Yes, curry leaves are to be added in the main cooking – I would recommend adding it in the frying of the paste if you’re making the curry immediately. If you’re planning on frying the masala and storing it for later then curry leaves are to be added when you add the water for the curry.

  9. Hanoz Kapadia says

    Hi Perzen. I made curry for the first time in my life using your (grandmum’s) recipe and my mum’s and it turned out great. Lucky for me, both were very similar. Thanks for sharing. No longer a curry virgin!! The one thing I did differently to your recipe which my mum’s called for was making a vaghar of the kando and stirring the paste in it once it turned golden brown instead of grinding the onion into the paste itself. I don’t think it made that much difference. What do you reckon? And what’s the purpose of the wheat flour step? Is it simply to thicken the curry? Thanks again. Will be most happy to get your recipe out on to my Pinterest board.

  10. Shridevi Karkera says

    Hi Perzen
    I tried this curry with dry Kashmiri chillis but I got an orange colour not a bright red. What could be the reason?It was quite close to my mother in law’s manglorean curry which is made regularly in our household.

  11. Niloufer Wadia says

    I can’t tell you how happy I was to find this recipe. My mom used to make a curry that taste almost exactly like this, also connected in my mind with the first meal after coming home from college / working out of town. Then with ill health cooking was passed onto servants, and finally the recipe died with her. I’m no avid cook but I have been looking through her recipe books searching without luck for her particular recipe. This is like I have a little of her back. Thank you!
    I now have my own copy permanently on the fridge with magnets and one version translated via Google Translate into Marathi for my maid!


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