This is a classic Sri Lankan dish, rich with the flavour of prawns cooked in their shell.  Yes, it is messy and finicky as you have to remove the heads and shell as you go. But the intensity of the flavour cannot be achieved using shelled prawns. Have individual bowls of hot water with lime squeezed into it for your guests to wash their fingers. And of course have a big bowl for the prawn shells.

Prawn curry

A Sri Lankan curry that uses tomato as a souring agent and minimal spicing.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 1 kg prawns in their shell
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm lemon grass stalk
  • 1 stick cinnamon (about 8 - 10 cm)
  • 1 or 2 green or red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 400 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 lime
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil


  • Chop the tomatoes into small chunks.
  • Chop the onion small.
  • Chop the ginger, garlic, chillies very small.
  • Prepare the coconut milk by mixing 2 heaped tablespoons of powdered coconut milk in 400ml of hot water. If using canned coconut milk, use one heaped teaspoonful.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  • Add the onion and cook till they are soft.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, chillies, tomatoes, lemon grass, cinnamon to the saucepan.
  • Strip the leaves off the curry leaf sprig and add them to the pan.
  • Let this fry for a minute or so, moving the mixture gently with the spoon.
  • Add the coconut milk.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Bring the gravy to a simmer and let it simmer for five minutes.
  • Add the prawns and cook till they a just firm (15 to 20 minutes depending on the size).
  • Squeeze the lime over the dish just before serving.