Chemeen Mulakittathu

Spicy Malabar Prawn curry with mustard seeds, chilli and tomato

Keralan Prawn Curry

A spicy winter curry is what keeps the cold spell at bay for me. This delicious keralan prawn dish is just what I have been craving for a while. I am so lucky to have a brilliant fishmonger not far from where I live. For me quality local seafood is a must and makes for better meals. Although I’ve used king prawns for this dish, they were a generous size and enough to feed a few of us.

Chemeen Mulakitathu essentially is a spiced thick gravy using fish or prawns, that hails from the Keralite Muslim community residing in the north of Kerala. ‘Moplah’ cuisine is distinct for their spice and yet being utterly wholesome. The food from this community is one of my favorites during celebrations. And is a classic example of how northern keralan cooking has its unique take to the rest of the state.

This prawn curry is spicy, sour, hot, sweet and tangy all at once. I use shallots for this dish as it is traditional and also they are milder. If you can’t get hold of shallots you can opt for red onions too as they impart a lovely sweetness when fried. As always the key to adding tamarind mentioned in my recipes is to check the strength of the paste. My paste for this recipe is quite weak so I required a little more than usual.

I love ghee rice and probably could eat it every day! And this prawn dish is the perfect excuse to serve it with.


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom saucepan on a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.

  2. Now add the fenugreek seeds and the sliced shallots. Fry for a minute and add the green chilli along with half the curry leaves. Continue to fry for 8-10 minutes over a medium heat until the shallots begin to change colour to a light brown.

  3. Add the garlic paste and stir for 30 seconds. Add the powdered spices and fry for a further 10 seconds making sure it doesn’t burn.

  4. Kerelan Chemeen Mulakitathu

    Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until they soften for 6 minutes. Mash with the back of the spoon and add water along with the tamarind paste. Season to taste. Lower the heat and bring to simmer for 2 minutes.

  5. Add the prawns and cook over a low heat for 6-7 minutes with the lid on stirring half way through. Turn the heat off and add the ginger slivers along with the remaining curry leaves and coriander.

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