Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry

By Published On: 23 May '24Last Updated: 16 Jun '24

A simply delicious Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry, where the King Prawns are first marinated with a simple home-style chilli spice marinade and delicately fried until just tender. The prawns are then given an oomph by tossing them in an aromatic garnish of sauteed onions, ginger, green chilli and curry leaves. No hunting down hard to find ingredients in this must try Prawn Chilli Fry.

A must try prawn/shrimp dish from the Mangalorean Catholic community of the west coast of India.

Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry is delicious when served with pre-dinner drinks at a dinner party. One of my favourite ways of eating them is as a side with hot steamed white rice and Coconut Dhal. Another very Mangalorean way of eating them is as a main with Mangalorean rice conjee! OMG OMG, I am drooling right now!!

A big hit at every party I have hosted at home, and if I don’t make this prawn chilli fry, my friends ask that I make it for them, the next time I invite them!

My prawn chilli fry – in 3 simple steps

I am not a chef, and I am always quick to make this clear, however, I love to experiment with home-style food with elevated flavours.

My version of finger lickin’ good prawn chilli fry is prepared with a quick and impressive homemade spice marinade, slightly spicy (dial down the Kashmiri chilli powder to your taste) and shallow fried delicately.

Nothing beats homemade prawn chilli fry and it’s all in the spice marinade, which you can make in a jiffy in your own kitchen. This spice marinade is inspired by the many simple home-style Mangalorean classics prepared by my mother when I was growing up in Mangalore.

To elevate the flavours, I toss the fried prawns in an aromatic garnish of sautéed onions, ginger, green chilli and curry leaves.

If you have ever wanted to make your own Prawn Chilly Fry at home, now is the time to try!

This delicious Prawn Chilli Fry involves three quick steps:

  • The firstprepare the marinade. I like to think of this mar (click the link in the recipe to watch a quick video of how to prepare the marinade and if in doubt, check out my Step-by-Step tutorial to help guide you through every stage of making these prawns).
  • The secondfry the prawns. In this step, fry the prawns in a pre-heated non-stick frying pan on medium high heat as called for in the recipe. The oil should be just about to smoke but not smoking. If the oil is too hot, remove from heat, cool the oil slightly and place it back on heat till it is just about to come to a smoking point.
  • The thirdSauté the aromatics and finish the dish.

The first step is really easy and follows a really lovely path, almost similar to making a marinade for any Mangalorean inspired fried fish marinade.

The second step might seem a little daunting at first, as you need to get the oil to the correct temperature before adding the prawns. Tip: If in doubt, place one prawn in the hot oil and if it makes a sizzling sound as it hits the hot oil, you know the oil is ready.

The third step is to sauté the aromatics that give a burst of flavour and coating/dressing to the prawns just before finishing the dish. Sauté the onions until translucent in the flavourful prawn oil that is leftover in the pan, before adding curry leaves, ginger and green chilli. Top up with a dash of chilli powder to give the coating a mild chilli kick (omit if you are happy with the spice in the prawns). The idea is to release the chilli kick at different intervals in the mouth!

Put this Prawn Chilli Fry in front of people and you will more than likely get lots of oohs and aahs and hopefully some gasps of delight too.

Hope you enjoy making my take on Prawn Chilli Fry in the true Mangalorean style with a twist of my tried and tested flavour booster!

Good luck!

frequently asked questions

What prawns should I select?

In my opinion, fresh King Prawns (aka green prawns) are the best choice for this recipe. They are large, juicy and retain their juiciness for at least the first 30 minutes after cooking. They absorb the spices very well during the short period of marination (say approx. 10 – 15 minutes). Next choice is Banana Prawns or Tiger Prawns – both are flavourful, juicy and also meaty.

Can I use cooked prawns for this recipe?

Although cooked prawns can be used in Indian cooking, green prawns are best for this recipe. I would not recommend using cooked prawns as they could get tough and rubbery during frying.

Should I marinate the prawns and if so, for how long?

If you have some time up your sleeve, marinate the prawns for 10 -15 minutes at room temperature, so the marinade can infuse the prawns with savoury flavours. I usually marinate the prawns first and while they are marinating, prep the other ingredients and it works really well.

Do I shallow/pan fry or deep fry the prawns?

Shallow frying or pan frying works best for this prawn chilli fry, as the prawns do not need to be submerged in oil for cooking. To fry, place the prawns in a single layer in a hot pan, with just enough oil to coat the base evenly. Do not overcrowd the pan during frying. It is best to fry in batches, if you have a medium/small frying pan. Tip: Use a non-stick heavy- bottomed skillet or shallow frying pan, as it conducts heat evenly and prevents hot spots.

How do I know if the prawns are cooked?

Cook the prawns on a hot pan for 2-3 minutes per side. You know the prawns are just cooked when they form a “C” shape. If the prawns have formed a tight “O”, you know the prawns are most likely overcooked. Important: Overcooked prawns are tough and rubbery so, do not overcook the prawns.

ingredients for the spice marinade

As you can see from the image below, the ingredients are all basic Indian pantry staple spices – Kashmiri chilli powder, cumin powder and turmeric powder. Combine these spice powders with vinegar (white or white wine vinegar) and salt and voila! the spice marinade is ready in 3 minutes.

Here’s what goes into making the Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry spice marinade:

  • The prawns I bought 1kg raw (green) king prawns/shrimps from my local fish market and cooked them on the same day – remember, fresh is always best when buying prawns. Rinsed the prawns under cold running water to remove any dirt and debris. Removed the heads, (you can use the heads to make a stock for your prawn pulao or prawn biryani) peeled the prawns but left the tails intact. Remove the tail, if you wish. To devein the prawns, I made a shallow slit along the back using the tip of a small knife. You may use a deveining tool, if you have one. Once you have deveined all the prawns, pat dry gently with a paper towel and the prawns are ready to be marinated. Substitutes: Fresh green/raw banana prawns or tiger prawns.
  • The spice marinade – The spices in this Prawn Chilli Fry are Kashmiri Chilli Powder, cumin powder and turmeric powder.
    • Kashmiri chilli powder – For a lovely chilli kick without the bite. Available in all Indian supermarkets and some large Coles Supermarkets. My preferred brand is ‘Pattu’ and comes in 250g packs in Coles. Use only the chilli powder marked as ‘Kashmiri chilli powder’ as chilli powders marked ‘HOT chilli powder’ will be very spicy for this recipe. Just be mindful of using HOT chilli powder – check the label!
    • Cumin powder – Nothing out of the ordinary. Adds a layer of earthy flavour to the marinade and goes very well with chilli powder.
    • Turmeric powder – It is a big part of Indian cuisine and is used to add colour and a mild overall flavour to most Indian vegetable, fish and meat dishes.
  • Vinegar – I like the sharpness of white vinegar and I have used white vinegar for this recipe. Milder alternatives: equal amount of lemon juice (if you don’t like the taste of vinegar), white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar.

The garnish aromatics

Traditionally, a Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry is served without a garnish, however, tossing the prawns in a sautéed aromatic garnish gives them an oomph and amps up their flavour!

Although prawns have their unique flavour, a garnish of some fried onions, curry leaves, ginger and green chillies turns the dish into a flavour bomb. These ingredients are fried in the leftover flavoursome prawn oil from the pan, and the prawns are tossed into this garnish for an authentic, flavoursome Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry.

Make sure you have everything ready to toss in before you start with this garnish!

  • Onion – The mellow sweetness for the final dish comes from the finely chopped onions that are fried in the leftover prawn oil in which the prawns were fried.
  • Curry leaves, fresh ginger and green chilli – Normally these garnishes are not traditional in a prawn chilly fry however, their flavour is sensational and absolutely loved at every house party we have hosted! If you are big on flavour, it’s well worth the effort!
  • Green chilli – Great for flavour and a mild chilli kick. The recipe calls for 1 green chill, but feel free to add 2, if you like the spicy taste! Tip: Remove seeds, if desired.
  • Kashmiri chilli powder – Half a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder added to the garnish will help release the chilli kick at different intervals in your mouth! Skip this if you are happy with the taste of prawns as they are (noting the prawns are already marinated before frying).

watch how to make it

Learn how to make this!

Here’s my easy Step-by-Step tutorial for a Mangalorean classic dish of prawns/shrimps – Prawn Chilly Fry.

The full instructions to make this Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry are in the recipe card below, but here are some helpful tips to go along with the process photos.

Tip: You know the prawns are cooked when they turn into a ‘C’ shape and this takes 2-3 minutes on one side, turn over, and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. If the prawns are turned into a tight ‘O’ shape, they are most likely overcooked!

Here’s what we are trying to achieve at each step:

Step 1

Prepare the spice marinade

Add Kashmiri chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and salt to a small bowl. Add vinegar as required until you get a paste. The paste should not be runny. The paste should be thick enough to coat the prawns evenly.

Step 2

Marinate the Prawns and Fry Them

Add the prawns to the marinade and marinate the prawns for 10 minutes. Heat a heavy-bottomed large frying pan on medium – high heat and drizzle oil to coat the bottom. Wait until the oil is just about to smoke. Place the prawns in one layer and fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, turn and fry for 1-2 minutes on the other side. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Chef’s Tip: Preheating the pan helps the prawns quickly sear on contact, locking in their natural flavours and moisture. Fry in batches, if necessary.

Step 3

sauté the aromatics

Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent (4-5 minutes). Add curry leaves, ginger, green chilli and stir to combine. Add water and chilli powder. Season with ½ tsp. salt, if required.

Step 4

Add the prawns back

Add the prawns back to the pan and toss gently to coat. Remove from heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve immediately.

serving suggestions

  • Mangalorean prawn chilly fry are very moreish nibbles to serve with pre-dinner drinks or as finger food.
  • They are equally delicious served as a side, with hot steamed rice and Coconut Dhal.
  • They are delicious served with Mangalorean rice conjee, if you love rice conjee for lunch or dinner! Yummy!!


Let me know how it went! Tag me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa or leave a comment below!

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Mangalorean Prawn Chilly Fry (Shrimp)

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
A simply delicious Mangalorean Prawn Chilli Fry, where the King Prawns are first marinated with a simple home-style chilli spice marinade and delicately fried until just tender. The prawns are then given an oomph by tossing them in an aromatic garnish of sauteed onions, ginger, green chilli and curry leaves. No hunting down hard to find ingredients in this must try Prawn Chilli Fry!