Malai Naryal Jhinga (creamy coconut prawns)

To the east of India lies West Bengal. Here, seafood is central to the region’s cuisine. Every day the locals catch the freshest fish, the plumpest prawns straight out of the Bay of Bengal and typically combine them with tamarind, mild spices and coconut according to traditional family recipes. Here at Green Saffron, we’ve devised this deliciously simple yet authentic recipe combining creamy coconut milk, exotic tamarind and the ultimate ‘Indian Five Spice’ blend, Panch Phoron with that king of the sea – the prawn for a truly inspiring, totally satisfying Indian meal. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Deep breath, focus and just follow the simple step by step instructions!

What you need


For the Panch Phoron

1 tsp brown mustard seeds (whole)

1 tsp nigella, black onion seeds (whole)

1 tsp fenugreek seeds (ground)

1 tsp fennel seeds (ground)

1 tsp cumin seeds (ground)

2 rounded tsp turmeric powder

1 level tsp salt

For the prawns:

1kg/2lb peeled Tiger Prawns (King prawns are just as good) or approx 1½ kg of defrosted, frozen prawns. (This will end up at about 1 kg of prawns, defrosted weight)

4 tsp mustard oil if possible, but sunflower or corn oil is fine

2 dst sp ghee, butter, clarified butter or vegetable oil

3 dst sp gram flour (or 2 dst sp of cream or plain flour)

400ml/14floz coconut milk

450ml/16floz (approx) water or fish stock if available

1 generous tblsp of Tamarind puree

1 chilli diced (optional and depending on your tolerance to heat)

Fresh coriander, a good handful, chopped

How to make it

  1. ­Firstly make your *Panch Phoron spice blend by mixing the first five spices. Then, mix in the turmeric powder and salt.
  2. In a bowl, mix the 4 tsp mustard oil with the Tiger prawns and 1 tsp of your freshly prepared spice blend. Set aside for thirty minutes
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, karahi or wok heat the 2 dst sp of ghee to smoking point and add the rest of your freshly prepared spice blend. Reduce the heat and fry/toast for only 10 to 15 seconds whilst constantly stirring
  4. Add the (gram) flour and stir or whisk until smooth (should only take about 2 minutes). Don’t worry how it looks at this stage…you’re making a kind of ‘roux’, it’s supposed to be a dry(ish) paste
  5. Add the coconut milk, tamarind puree and diced chilli (if using) and keep stirring or whisking until it’s a smooth gravy (another couple of minutes). Add the water or fish stock bit by bit until you have the thickness of gravy you want. We’d use the whole 450ml, ourselves.
  6. Next, add the prawns, turn up the heat and rapidly bring to the boil. Turn the heat back down and simmer for only ONE minute. You want to only just cook the prawns, without getting them all rubbery
  7. Turn the heat off, add the coriander and serve immediately with plenty of Green Saffron’s Basmati rice and riata!…..simple!!

NB*At GREEN SAFFRON we sell Panch Phoron as a fresh spice blend if you’d like to give ours a go.