October 23, 2012

Tamil Nadu style Prawn Thokku/ Roast - A guest post by Nisha Thomas!

I can't help feeling so overwhelmed at the fact that The Captain's Kitchenette is having its very first ever guest post and that too by that person from whom I was inspired to start blogging in the first place. Nisha Thomas! I stumbled across her blog through my younger sister, Rachel, who is our common connection and then later came to know that she is cousin of my close buddy from college with whom I shared the same room and the same bench for three years, Indhu Thomas. It sure is a small world! We have been sharing a nice bond ever since. Nisha's blog Look Who's Cooking Too is one my favorite blogs and a huge inspiration for me like it is for many others. Her style of food photography and choice of recipes are very close to my heart and therefore it is such an honor to have her as my guest this month. A very warm welcome to The Captain's Kitchenette Nisha :) ! Handing over to you now.
There are so many wonderful food blogs out there, that I find it difficult to browse through all the yummy recipes they post. I still manage to run through a few once in a while, and eventually end up with tonnes of recipes bookmarked. Serah's beautiful blog, The Captains Kitchenette, certainly falls into this category and its her simple, easy-to-follow recipes that makes me a fan. I landed up on her blog after her sister (we were hostel mates in Chennai) posted a link to a recipe on FB. I was immediately hooked. We then exchanged a couple of emails, became friends on FB and the rest is history. She's now more of a friend than a random food blogger and I hope some day I get to meet her and her lovely family she cooks for. I also have to appreciate her for taking time to cook, photograph and blog in spite of having a toddler to tend to. Like I was telling her the other day, I complain if I have to continuously cook for a week ;)

Since Serah was taking some time off to tend to other commitments, she asked me if I could do a guest post for her blog and I truly obliged. She gave me full leverage on what I could whip up and since she said she preferred sea food, I thought I'd make this prawn thokku for her. I came across the recipe on one of my recipe search sessions on the internet and immediately wrote it down (yes believe it or not, I actually wrote it down). Completely forgot to bookmark the page and so apologies to the person who originally posted it. I did try searching for it again, but since this was written down ages back, I really had no luck.
Thokku, loosely translated means paste, and I presume this is more of a Tamil Nadu preparation as opposed to the mallu (Kerala) way of making prawn roast. The use of fennel seeds make this dish quite unique, and of course something with grated coconut can never go wrong. This is a favourite prawn recipe of ours and has made its appearance on quite a few occasions. Although it goes well with some warm rice, dal and pappad, my favourite way to have it is as a starter with some chilled beer. Just thread it onto small skewers, sprinkle the masala on top, and serve. Its a crowd pleaser, trust me!

So without wasting your time any further, here is the recipe.

You will need:
Prawns- 250 gms
Shallots/ small onions- 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
Garlic- 4 pods, peeled and chopped
Green chillies- 2, chopped (add more for more heat)
Ginger- 1 1/2 inch piece, peeled and chopped
Tomato- 1 big, roughly sliced
Black peppercorns- 1 tsp
Fennel seeds- 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut- 1 1/2 tbsp
Cinnamon- 1 inch piece
Cloves- 4
Curry leaves- 2 to 3 sprigs (the more the better)
Coriander powder- 1 tbsp
Kashmiri chilly powder- 2 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Water- 1/2 cup
Oil- 4 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Coconut oil- 1 tsp (optional)
Lemon/ lime juice- approx. 1 tsp
Coriander leaves- to garnish
De-vein, wash the prawns, dab it dry with kitchen towels and keep aside.
Place a frying pan over low-medium heat and add around 1 tbsp of oil.
Once hot, throw in the shallots, garlic, green chillies and ginger and sauté till they turn golden brown. Keep stirring in between to avoid the onions getting burnt, which would affect the overall taste of the thokku.
Add the chopped tomato and continue cooking till they turn soft.
In goes the peppercorns, fennel seeds and grated coconut. Stirring continuously, cook the mix for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the contents into a bowl and leave aside to cool sufficiently.
Once cool, use a blender/ grinder to make a smooth paste. Try and avoid adding water, but if necessary a tsp or so wont do any harm.
Place the same frying pan back on medium heat and add the remaining oil.
Once hot, throw in the cinnamon, cloves and curry leaves. Stir for a couple of seconds till you get than nice aroma of spices.
At this stage tip in the ground ingredients and cook for a few minutes. It might splutter a bit in the beginning, so be careful.
Add the coriander, chilly, turmeric powders and salt, mix it all into the ground paste and cook, stirring on and off till the oil starts to surface.
Throw in the prawns and mix well, so its all coated in the masala.
Pour the 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer till the prawns are cooked and the water has all been absorbed. 
At this stage, you can drizzle the coconut oil (if using) and roast the prawns for a couple more minutes, or till the masala becomes dark and completely dry. 
Transfer the prawns into a serving dish, garnish with some coriander leaves and just before serving squeeze some lemon juice over it and serve with some chilled beer or hot rice.
Notes: Shallots can be replaced with a big onion.
The first time I made this, it was unbelievable spicy because I added 4 green chillies. If you are brave, go ahead and increase the number of chillies or use the spicy red chilly powder instead of Kashmiri chilly powder
Using coconut oil is purely optional, but it did give that distinct taste overall.
Make sure you dont over cook the prawns, as they can become really rubbery and chewy. If using pre-cooked prawns, then add it only once most of the water has been absorbed, but the masala is wet and not completely dry. That way the prawns don't over cook in the gravy, but at the same time gets smothered in the masala as well.


  1. Beautiful recipe and clicks...Oh-how i wish i could grab some of this delicious dish as I am a die-hard shrimp fan ...yum !!

  2. beautiful click n tempting dish!..loved it!..frst time ur space...hapi to follow u..glad if u do the same!

  3. A prefect feast for sea foods lvoers like me. This prawn thokku roast makes me drool, salivating here. Such a fabulous guest post by Nisha. Kudos to both of you.

  4. Hi u said salt to taste. Is 1 tsp salt enough?