Primal Prawns (or Cauliflower) in an Indian Coconut Sauce

I was leery about this recipe.  It seemed too simple to have any flavor.  I’m used to reading and preparing Indian recipes that have at least 12 different spices.  And typically, at least 2 of the ingredients are hard to find in our small Montana city that seems to have a hard time selling even the most basic of gourmet and especially ethnic ingredients.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I’ll be honest though, I almost stopped halfway through the prepping of the dish because I was not impressed with the then flavor of the coconut milk and minced onion/garlic/ginger paste.  But, I continued on thinking that I should give it a good try given that all of the prep was done and thus I had nothing to lose.  I even went so far as to think of possible other renditions with the end result.  Oh ye of little faith!

The subtle cinnamon, cloves and cardamom melded together perfectly with the coconut milk and gingery onion.  I think the absolute trick to this recipe is to give it time to let the flavors do their thing.  As with seemingly all Indian recipes, the dish improves even more after sitting overnight.  The sauce is perfect for the shrimp in that it’s quite flavorful but does not overwhelm the shrimp or cauliflower.  This will be one dish that will continually be on my rotation of Indian go-to’s.

I want to give great credit to Meena Pathak  for the great recipes in COMPLETE INDIAN COOKING.  This recipe is an adaptation of one of her recipes and a second recipe of hers that I’ve created a post around.

Pairs great with a mild Pinot Noir (I find most Indian goes great with Pinot Noirs).


Serves 4 – 6

  • 12 oz chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1″ piece ginger, sliced
  • 2 lb large raw prawns; peeled, cleaned & deveined – or –
  • 1 head cauliflower cut into bite-sized florets – or –
  • a  combination of shrimp & cauliflower
  • salt, to taste
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried bird’s eye chile
  • 2 oz Greek yogurt
  • 12 fl oz coconut milk or 4 oz coconut cream with 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup water

Place onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and process to a FINE paste.

Smear the prawns or cauliflower with a little salt and half the turmeric.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and fry the prawns over a high heat until just golden brown.  Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves.  Reduce heat to medium high and stir spices for 2 minutes or just until they are aromatic and lightly brown.  Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion/garlic/ginger mixture to the pan.  Stir-fry for approximately 4 minutes.

Add the remaining turmeric and bird’s eye chile.  Sprinkle with a little water and stir well.  Add the yogurt and mix well.  Pour in the coconut milk/coconut cream & water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.  (At this point it is going to come down to preference of thickness.  It can be cooked longer for a thicker consistency if desired.)

Add prawns and cauliflower.  Cook for another 8 minutes for shrimp and 10 minutes for cauliflower (check for doneness of florets).


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