Sri Lankan prawn curry is an authentic and delicious main dish. If you can find prawns or shrimp with the heads on, they are said to take the dish to another level. I wasn’t able to find prawns or shrimps with the heads on, so I left the tails on while cooking to get additional flavor. The result was a memorable and delicious curry dish with all the flavors of Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, curry and rice is considered the national dish. Rice is either steamed or boiled but comes in many varieties and served alongside all sorts of amazing curries made of vegetables, meats, fish and seafood. Sri Lankan prawn curry is just one of hundreds of delicious choices in Sri Lankan cuisine. Generally Sri Lankan curry is spicy hot so feel free to adjust the chili to your personal preference.
Sri Lankan curry is made with several spices, every cook has their own personal spice blend. The roasted curry powder should be made ahead of time and feel free to add more or less of the spices you love. This recipe also calls for a few ingredients that may be difficult to find at your local grocery, so here is a link for curry leaves and pandan leaves.
Be sure to serve it alongside rice and Sri Lankan pol sambol a coconut curry that is the perfect accompaniment. If you would like to learn more about this island nation be sure to check out “Our Journey to Sri Lanka” there you will also find more authentic Sri Lankan recipes.
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Sri Lankan Prawn Curry
- 1 lb large shrimp or prawns head-on about 20 shrimp
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp Sri Lankan Curry Powder
Prawn/ shrimp Curry
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 inch piece ginger, minced
- 1 medium sweet onion chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp Sri Lankan Curry Powder
- ½ tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 12 curry leaves
- 3 pandan leaves
- ⅓ cup coconut milk
- ⅔ cup water
- 2 fresh red chili peppers more or less to your heat tolerance
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 Tbsp Cilantro chopped, finely
Preparing the Prawns/Shrimp
- Clean the prawns/shrimp by removing the heads (if using) and setting them aside.
- Peel the shell, leaving the tails intact and de-vein the shrimp.
- Rinse the prawns/shrimp and prawns/shrimp heads separately.
- Sprinkle the salt and curry powder over the shrimp and mix well and set aside to marinate while you cook the curry.
- Heat a frying pan over medium high heat, and add the coconut oil.
- Add the prawn/shrimp heads to the pan if using.
- Cook the prawn/shrimp heads for about 5 -10 minutes until the heads become crispy and caramelized. If not using the heads proceed to the next step.
- Add the onion, ginger, garlic, a generous pinch of salt and reduce the heat to medium and cook the shrimp heads until they soften - a few minutes.
- Add the curry powder, fennel powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, curry leaves and stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until the spices are fragrant and have formed a paste with the onion, garlic and ginger.
- Add the coconut milk, 2/3 cup water, fresh red chili pepper, lime juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes until the mixture is thick.
- Add the peeled prawns/shrimp into the curry base and gently mix to combine and completely coat the prawn/shrimp with the sauce. Add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick, or you would like more sauce.
- While stirring, bring the mix to a boil. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or just until the prawns/shrimp is cooked through and is pink. Season with salt to taste.
- Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid and let the prawns/shrimp sit in the sauce for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle cilantro to garnish if using, and serve with steamed Basamati rice . Enjoy!