10 May 2012

Kari Udang - Malaysian Prawn Curry

When you're a food blogger, recipes come to you by all manner of means.  There's the obvious ways, like via someone else's blog, or by a recipe site such as the great BBC Good Food.  Then there are the rather less obvious ways, such as when someone tweets you to say they've seen a great recipe they thought you might like and point you in the right direction.

Then there's the totally obscure.

Now, I was born in Malaysia and have a marked partiality towards any generic type of Malay recipe.  It's difficult to achieve true "generic" Malay recipes, because - like the U.K. - there have been so many culinary influences over time, that the genuine Malay foods have been rather bastardised over time.  However, when I see a recipe that purports to be genuine Malay, it makes me prick my ears up.

I've recently been promoting the blog gently via LinkedIn (where I'm Jenny Davies, if you're interested in connecting) and was contacted by Gopalasamy Balakisnan who recommended I visit his website www.malaysiaspice.biz where it goes under the name of The Spice Traders.  Just the name was enough to pique my curiosity, but while I was there and having a look around, I came across their Malaysian Recipes page.

There are quite a few recipes that sounded quite a way out of my comfort zone for cooking, but I thought if I investigated the "curries" page, that I might find something that would be a measure of the remainder.

The sauce, prior to adding the prawns

Which is how I came to find the Kari Udang.  (Are you still with me?).  The recipe came care of Mrs.Gandhiri Perumal, which okay I'll accept could have been a made up name just to make it look authentic, but you have to ask yourself why they'd bother to do that.

I liked the sound of the recipe, so onto the menu plan it went.

This curry is very definitely out of the run of the "ordinary" types of curry that I have made in the past.

It uses two different types of sliced onions, at different intervals.  Plus potatoes, aubergine and fresh tomato, along with an exciting list of spices such as mustard seeds, fenugreek, curry leaves and tamarind pulp - along with the prawns.  Now most of the spice list I had in the cupboard already, but I needed to find fenugreek and curry leaves.  Our local supermarket has been known to have curry leaves, because I've definitely bought them there in the past - but didn't appear to have any fresh when we went.  However, in the world food aisle, hubby pounced on a bag which appeared to say "Curry leaves" and all was well.  The fenugreek was a simple matter as they had great boxes of the stuff (which smells adorably like new mown grass).

I couldn't be doing with grating fresh coconut, so used a carton of coconut cream instead.  I suspect there wasn't much difference in the two!

The curry, ready to serve

So there I was, happily following the recipe and adding this, adding that, stirring and observing the dish as it changed and developed.  Until it came to adding the curry leaves - 10 or so - which turned out to be Bay leaves!  Oh no!  As hubby said - he would go and buy the one herb that we're never likely to need, as we have a beautiful bay tree in the front garden!  Which is why our Kari Udang was completely bereft of curry leaves.

Now I can't imagine that it would have made all THAT much difference to the eventual end flavour of the dish - certainly not where hubby was concerned, as he didn't like it at all.  Son & heir and I loved it and ate every little bit - son & heir even ate his Dad's helping.

If I were to make this again, there are a couple of points that I'd observe - and which I've taken account of in the recipe below.  One is to remember to find curry leaves, as they're there for a reason.  The other is to steel myself to hold out until the VERY last minute to add the cooked prawns, so as to prevent their becoming overcooked and rubbery - and decanting all their juice into the curry sauce, which watered it down too much.  Of course, using raw prawns would solve the problem - but then they're much more expensive.

I loved the lighter, fresher feel of this curry.  For all that it contained a complete carton of coconut cream, you could be forgiven for not knowing as the sauce was not heavy or cloying at all.  I think the addition of the large pieces of tomato helped where this was concerned.  I really enjoyed having a flavoursome curry that wasn't too frisky where spicy heat was concerned, but one that demonstrated so many different flavours in the same spoonful.

Don't be put off by the long ingredients list - as many of those ingredients will keep for a long time and thus can be used in other curries.  For instance, the tamarind pulp - I have had our block of tamarind for some months now and have found it keeps perfectly well in the larder cupboard (well wrapped, of course).  I try to bear my ingredients cupboard in mind when deciding on recipes to try, in that I'll pick a recipe that I have the majority of ingredients in stock already.  This makes best use of larger packs of herbs and spices and prevents your racing all around town every couple of days, looking for obscure ingredients.  Although, having said that, I'll be keeping my eyes open for curry leaves in the future!

KARI UDANG (Malaysian Prawn Curry)    Serves 3

Ingredients :

2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly & another, sliced thickly - used at separate intervals
a pinch of mustard seeds
half a tsp of fenugreek (mine was chopped leaves)
150g potato, peeled and diced small
half a tbsp tamarind pulp (I used dried, mixed with 1tbsp water then strained)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 fresh green chillies, chopped finely
1-2 tbsp mild curry powder
10 curry leaves
sea salt
1 small aubergine, sliced thickly and cubed
250ml coconut cream (I used Blue Dragon)
2 large flavoursome tomatoes, cut into wedges

300g frozen King Prawns, defrosted (fresh would work as well, just add them much earlier in the process)
cooked white rice to serve, along with chapati or roti.


1.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the thinly sliced onion, mustard seeds, fenugreek and potato cubes.  Saute until the potato are almost cooked and the onion has browned.  Set aside.

2.  Add the tamarind juice to the wok, along with the garlic, green chillies, thickly sliced onion, curry powder, curry leaves and 100ml or so of cold water.  Stir and cook until heated through and fragrant.

3. Add the aubergine and simmer until the aubergine is all but cooked.

4.  Add the coconut milk, the reserved onion/potato mix and tomatoes.  (If you are using raw prawns, now would be a good time to include them).  Cover and simmer until the sauce has had a chance to combine and the tomatoes have lost their rawness.

5.  Milliseconds before you are due to serve, drop in the prawns and simply heat them through.  Do not be tempted to leave them longer than is absolutely necessary, or you will find your carefully crafted sauce begins to lose its consistency.


Printable version


  1. Looks lovely! My son (just 2 years old) loves a good curry. Definitely tempted to try. My local Asda almost always stocks curry leaves but I think it depends on the area?

    1. What a boy your son is! 2yrs and he loves curry - brilliant. :) We started our son on curries and chillies at around that age and he loves anything hot and spicy now. I think, with our local Asda, it depends on the time of year as to whether they have curry leaves in stock. They probably had them in for some Indian festival or another, on the day I found them in the past!

  2. Hi,

    This recipe is really quick to make, yet very authentic-tasting. Malaysia is a melting pot of different cultures, different ethnic backgrounds and inevitably, this brings out an eclectic mix of cuisines, rated as one of the best in the world. Thanks a lot.

    1. Yes, I think Malaysia and Britain have a lot in common there! Here in Britain we have taken on many "foreign" cuisines as our own - for instance, the Balti Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala! The knack to the thing is to retain your own cuisine alongside it though - and I don't think that Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding will ever be ousted by a curry. :)

  3. This recipe looks nice, thanks for taking time to post this.


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