Traditional Bengali Prawn Curry Recipe

Traditional Bengali Prawn Curry Recipe

Gary Rhodes sadly died this week. He's one of the first chefs I remember seeing on TV so here's a prawn curry themed lesson from him.

I remember as a youngster getting him confused with violinist Nigel Kennedy who I occasionally saw driving around my home town in a Jaguar XJS shoddily sprayed in the colours of Aston Villa.

It must have been early 90s. Looking back at this period Rhodes and Kennedy had more in common than just looking alike to my teenage self (do they even look alike?)

Sort of. I think Gary's the one not holding the violin. 

They were both talented young men who rose to become figureheads within their respective cultural industries. So fair play to Gazza and Nige. 

Anyway. You're not here for an obituary, so here's an early TV appearance of Gary Rhodes cooking a traditional Bengali Prawn curry recipe under the direction of local hand Jayanti Bhattacharyya. We hope this small tribute will help his memory live on and, as always, bring some new world flavours and cooking techniques into your kitchen.


Ingredients you will need

  • raw, shell-on, jumbo king prawns at least 300g (watch the video look at the size of those prawns - KWOAR!)
  • vegetable or rapeseed oil
  • salt
  • turmeric
  • ghee
  • 3 green cardamom
  • cinnamon / cassia bark - about an inch
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 fresh or dried red chillies
  • a bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions
  • fresh ginger
  • ground cumin
  • kashmir chilli powder
  • coconut milk
  • garam masala - ground cinnamon, cloves and cardamom
  • fresh coriander


Step 1.

Crank up some Nigel Kennedy and spike your hair the 90s way!

  • Lightly season the prawns (leave skin on and heads if possible) with turmeric and salt
  • add a tbs of vegetable oil to a pan, get a decent high-medium to hot heat.
  • Chuck in the prawns no more than 30 seconds each side!
  • You're not cooking them - just sealing and getting a touch of colour on either side. The turmeric helps enhance the colour.
  • Remove the prawns and leave to rest on a plate.

Step 2.
As is our custom, crack open a cold one, toast Gary, Jayanti and absent friends then prep the ingredients as follows. 

  • Grate or blitz 2 onions
  • separately grate a decent knob of fresh ginger (thumb knuckle to tip of thumbnail type size)

Step 3.

  • Add about 3 tbs of ghee to a pan - again decent heat. See how Gary picks up on how much fat they use! If you don't have ghee use vegetable oil
  • Crush your 3 green cardamom until they rupture then add along with cinnamon, cloves, red chillies and bay leaf. Leave for about 30 secs to a minute - you want to smell the aromas but not burn the spices.
  • Add grated / blitzed onions and 1-tbsp sugar then fry for a couple of mins - interesting Jayanti adds sugar in so early (will try this with other Boom recipes next time).
  • Add ginger and fry for about 30 sec
  • Then add 1 tbsp of cumin, 1/2 to 1 tsp pf Kashmir chilli powder and 1 tsp of turmeric and fry for another 30 seconds
In the youtube video Gary is shocked at how much cumin Jayanti suggests! They reach a compromise but I think she knows her game. There's a nice contrast in style here and i think it shows how brits, even top chefs, were really intimidated by spices back then.

Step 4.
  • Add a half a tin of coconut milk - more if you want 
  • Turn the heat down - you don't want to boil it
  • Add half a tsp of salt or to taste
  • Let it mingle a little and then bang the prawns in along with any prawn juice that may be on the plate (prawn juice yum).
  • Add 1/2 tsp of garam masala spice mix  (ground cinnamon, cloves and cardamom mix).
  • You don't want to over cook the prawns - just a minute or two in the pan on the hob as they'll continue to cook as you serve.
Step 5.

Serve with lashings of freshly chopped coriander and your preferred curry accompaniment.