RECIPE: Chemeen Porichathu or Fried Prawns

We look at Malabar Muslim Cookery by Ummi Abdulla, first published by Orient Longman in 1981. 

The Mappilas are a community of Muslims on the Malabar coast of Kerala. Concentrated in the northern towns of Kannur, Calicut and Thalassery, from Kasaragod to Thrissur, they trace their origins to trade with West Asia. Kerala’s location on the coast, and its history as an ancient global trading post, left the region exposed to influences from all over the world.

It is no accident that the country’s first synagogue, church and mosque were all built in Kerala. As Arab traders arrived in Kerala to find the black gold of the spice trade, their culture, cuisine and customs merged with locals through intermarriage. The Mappilas share a language and a love of coconut with the rest of the state, but their cuisine remains distinctive on several counts.

The recipe for Chemeen Porichathu or Fried Prawns is a keeper – there is the added step of double cooking the prawns, but counter-intuitively, this doesn’t dry out the prawns, as you might expect. With a heaping of boiled rice and yogurt, this could be a lunch that makes a hungry family very happy.

Chemeen Porichathu (Fried Prawns)

200 g shelled prawns
3 tsp chilli powder
4 cloves garlic
4 cm piece cinnamon
2 cloves
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp aniseed
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Clean and wash the prawns with a little salt. Grind all the ingredients with salt. Cook the prawns with ground ingredients in a little water till the prawns are cooked and the water absorbed.

Heat the oil in a kadai. Add the prawns and fry till the prawns are crisp.

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