Prawn vindaloo is a very popular dish in the UK and the west in general. Vindaloo (in general) is a Goan dish of Portuguese origin - see my Pork Vindaloo recipe for a bit of the history of the dish. Suffice to say that vindaloo dishes are generally marinated in wine or wine vinegar (the vin bit) and lots of garlic (the aloo, from the Portuguese alhos) and it would have been meat dish, usually pork, prepared like this to preserve the meat on long sea voyages.
So prawn vindaloo is not so traditional - however, since Goa is a coastal region with lots of fish available, it would not be outlandish to suppose that prawn vindaloo type dishes would be prepared there.
When I decided to cook this I thought that the delicate flavour of the prawns might be somewhat overwhelmed by the spices and the whole marinating process. No so - it turned out really well; one of the best prawn dishes I have made.
My recipe here is based partly on the traditional vindaloo dishes, partly on various prawn vindaloo recipes I have found and partly on my own instincts about what might work.
All vindaloo recipes need to be marinated, preferably overnight, so it's not a spur of the moment dish. The result should be a sweet and sour dish and if you don't really want it too hot (it could be very hot in Goa) that's OK, just use less chillis; On this occassion I made this pretty hot but it was still delicious and all the flavours came through.
About 1¼lb (600gms) King prawns.
6-8 cloves garlic.
50 ml white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cumin seeds.
½ teaspoon turmeric
8-10 black peppercorns.
About 1 inch cinnamon .
Notes on Ingredients
Prawns. These can be either raw or cooked. If you use fresh prawns then you need to shell and devein them.
Spring onion. Optional or use a little more onion
Vinegar. I have seen vindaloo recipes which include most types of vinegar; malt, cider or wine. White wine vinegar is best for prawn vindaloo; it is sweet and sour but not so rich as to take over the taste.
Chilli. This is up to you. I have some very strong chilli powder at the moment and I used 1½ teaspoons. This was pretty hot but still let the flavours through. Real chilli heads could use more, use less if you like it milder.
Oil. The best vindaloo is cooked in mustard oil. Ghee is good. Use good quality rapeseed (canola) or sunflower oil if you must.
Heat up a dry frying pan.
Throw in the cumin, cloves, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns.
Heat for a few seconds until the coriander seeds just start to change colour.
Grind these spices
Mash the garlic.
Put the prawns in a non-metallic bowl and pour in the vinegar
Add the spices, chilli, sugar and the garlic to the prawns and stir well to evenly distribute.
Leave to marinate.
(Some time later)
Finely chop the onion and spring onions.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan - if using mustard oil then it should just start to smoke before cooking.
Toss in the onions, and fry until the onions are soft and just starting to brown.
Crumble the curry leaves into the onions
Using a slotted spoon, put the prawns from the marinade into the pan and seal stirring constantly.
Add the rest of the marinade.
Stir and reduce the heat.
Cover and simmer over a very low heat for about about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile grind the poppy seeds very finely
Add to the prawns, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
Notes on Method
You can, of course use ground spices instead of grinding your own - make sure they are fresh; ground spices over six months old are as much use as sawdust.
Don't use a metallic bowl for this marinade - it will badly affect the taste (and probably the bowl).
You should marinate this at room temperature for about 8 hours or in the fridge for about 24 hours. This will thoroughly impregnate the prawns giving them taste and killing all known bacteria.
I often use a slow cooker for the simmering stage. If simmering in a pan then you may need to add a little water from time to time to stop it drying out and burning.
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