Piyajkolir Tarkari

Bengali Prawns


Anna Jones describes the time she ate a version of these Bengali prawns in a beach-side shack in Kerala. The restaurant was just a few pieces of wood thrown together, but these prawns β€” the size of her hand β€” were the best spicy, nigella-seedy prawns she’s ever had. This recipe for a Bengali version is the closest she has found: having been blown-away by the original, she only remembers the huge amount of spring onions they used β€” four bunches! This dish is a reminder of how a superior juicy prawn can leave a lobster pink with embarrassment.


  • 600g/1lb 6oz raw king prawns, peeled and deveined
  • Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Vegetable or groundnut oil
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
  • 3–4 fresh green chillies, cut in half lengthways
  • 4 bunches of spring onions, trimmed and sliced
  • Β½ teaspoon chilli powder


Put the prawns into a bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle over half the turmeric and stir, then set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.

Put a couple of tablespoons of oil into a large deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the prawns and fry for 2 minutes or so on each side until golden brown, then remove to a plate and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and put back on the heat. Put in the potato cubes and fry until golden, then add the nigella seeds and the chillies. Add the spring onions and cook until lightly browned and softened, then stir in the remaining turmeric, the chilli powder and a little salt.

Pour in a mugful of water, cover with a lid and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring from time to time and adding more water if it looks too dry.

Return the prawns to the pan and cook for a further minute or so to warm them through. Serve with warm chapattis and simple basmati rice.