“Tikka Masala” … is it Indian or British? I am not even going into that argument. There is enough talk on it already.
An argument always spoils the mood. The wisest thing to do is to sit down and enjoy a “bite”.
That is what a “tikka” means; a “bite”, a ”morsel”. “Masala” is the usual Indian spice mix; the term masala is used in a very broad sense. I am not exactly sure if this “Prawn Tikka Masala” is an appropriate name. There are no small bites. I have used really enormous prawns here.
But I promise you that there is no name brand Tomato Soup involved in this Tikka Masala. This happens to be totally Indian style Tikka Masala. I do not like my curries with canned tomato soups. Soups and curries are best kept separate in my kitchen. (No disrespect for any brand intended here)
No short cuts here. Instead there are real tomatoes, spices and cream involved. So even if the idea could have originated in Britain, I prefer Tikka Masala the very Indian way. Rich, aromatic and genuinely homemade.
While Butter Masala or the Makhani dishes are smooth and creamy, there is something bold about Tikka Masalas. More kick. More energy.
The first thing that comes to mind when one hears of Tikka Masala is probably Chicken Tikka Masala. But so much more can go into that lip smacking sauce. Paneer comes next. The prawn is not as popular as the chicken. Most Indian restaurants unfailingly serve Chicken and Paneer Tikka Masala. Some might just decide to add that extra Prawn Tikka Masala in their menu.
The basic sauce for Tikka Masala is the same, irrespective of whatever you want to add to it. You may add chicken, vegetables, paneer or seafood. I usually combine a part of the Makhani Sauce (which I almost always have some frozen) and then the usual onion, ginger and garlic used in most Indian curries. A splash of cream is used to finish the dish. Dried fenugreek leaves imparts the bulk of flavor.
Left: The sauce for Tikka Masala and the grilled prawns. Right: Sauce and Prawn combined to be finished with cream and garnish.
Being a Bengali, I grew up surrounded by prawn, crabs and fresh water fish recipes. Tastes of sumptuous Golda Chingri cooked into Malaikari or Bhapa still line my lips. Prawn Tikka Masala was saved for restaurant visits. It was never made at home. No, not at all my comfort food.
This is a meal for special occasions. I do not even remember the first time I had Tikka Masala with seafood, or where I did. It could have been way into my adulthood, for I have no fond memories of relishing on this when I was little.
Prawn Tikka Masala served over fragrant Basmati Rice Pulao. My favorite way to have it.
Prawn Tikka Masala
Ingredients: (Serves 2-4)
- 1/2 lb large prawns (I had about 6-8 extra large/king sized prawns)
- a sprinkle of salt
- 2 teaspoon ginger paste (or grated fresh ginger)
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1.5 teaspoon oil
For the sauce:
- 2- 2.5 tablespoon oil
- about 8-10 methi/fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/2 cup packed (8 oz cup), sliced onion in thin half moon
- 2 large tomatoes, grated (about 3/4 cup of an 8 oz cup)
- 1.5 tablespoon julienned ginger (use young ginger without too much fiber)
- 1 green chili pepper, slit
- 6 heaped tablespoon makhani masala* (without dairy)
- 1/4 cup cream + 3/4 cup skim milk or water
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (Optional)
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder (optional)
- 2 teaspoons kasoori methi/dried methi leaves lightly toasted on the skillet
*Note: You can make this Makhani Masala ahead of time and freeze.
All spices available in Indian Store or online. See list of spices here and other resources to buy them.
De-vein and shell prawns. You may leave the tail on. Pat dry. Toss with all ingredients of the marinade except the oil. Let sit for about 15 – 30 minutes.
Add the 1.5 teaspoons of oil in a pan and quickly cook the marinated shrimp, for a few minutes only until they curl and is no more transparent/translucent. Set aside.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan. Add the methi/fenugreek, the cumin seeds and the slit green chili peppers. When the spices sizzle add the sliced onions and cook them in medium heat until they soften and become translucent. Add the tomatoes, and the julienned ginger. Cook until the tomato has reduced and is rid of all raw taste. The oil should be separating on the sides of the pan at this point. Now add the Makhani Masala , the red chili powder if you are using, kasoori methi and the garam masala. Stir everything in and lower the heat. Cover and cook for about 2-5 minutes until the spice mix has blended well.
Uncover and stir and toss. Adjust salt. Add the cooked prawns to the pan, and the bell peppers if you are using them and toss well for the spice mix to coat the prawns. Cook for only a couple or more minutes. Lower heat and add the cream and the milk. Let it come to a simmer. Toss a few times and remove from heat right away. Finish with more toasted kasoori methi if you wish.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Medium
- Shrimp Curry with Pomegranate and Coconut Milk for Cemplang Cemplung
- Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)
- Shrimp in a Fiery Coconut Sauce
- Shrimp Satay – Grilling with Almond Satay Sauce
- Shrimp Stew with Zucchini Tomato and Lentil
- Shrimp with Scallions and Garlic in Chile Tamari Sauce
- Tandoori Fish
- Toasted Sesame and Shrimp Fried Rice