Monday, February 25, 2008

Chemmeen ‘eerkkili’-yil kuthi varuthatahu - Kerala Style Skewered Prawn Fry

Having difficulty in comprehending the title..? I know it’s a bit strange for my non-Keralite Indian friends and totally clueless for the western tongue. It is a household name for a simple seafood dish prepared and served with a fancy look grandma’s indigenous alternative to store-bought wooden skewers! ‘Eerkkili’ is the tender rib of the coconut leaves and Chemmeen ‘eerkkili’-yil kuthi varuthathu means skewered prawn fry, from Kerala, cooked with its pungent spices, flavorful coconut oil and aromatic fresh herbs. A specialty from my grandma’s kitchen when she expected some special guests or to entertain her sons-in-law .....the fancy prawn dish my mother used to prepare when she got some jumbo prawns, once in a blue moon!! At our place, this is the only “naadan” (an old-fashioned, country side) dish that gets to share the ground with the much elevated chicken wings and personally, I would go for this Kerala style skewered prawn fry anytime over a plate of Kebobs or chicken wings!


For Frying:
  • 5 large prawns/shrimps as in the picture, peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly
  • 1 tbsp chilly powder (adjust to your taste and tolerance)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Around ½ tsp homemade garam masala
  • Around ½ tsp freshly ground pepper powder
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ½ tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
  • 5 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 4 hours or some ‘pacha- eerkkili’
For Sautéing:

  • 1 small size big onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 green chillies finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 small piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
  • Leftover marinade applied on prawns
  • Salt to taste


  • Make a marinade with chilly powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, ground pepper powder, salt and lemon juice and apply it on prawns, and insert each of them onto eerkkili/skewer and leave it in room temperature for around 30 minutes. DO NOT throw away the leftover masala; save it as it is needed for sautéing at a later stage.
  • Heat oil in a shallow pan and shallow fry the prawns, flipping each side, at medium heat for around 2 minutes, for each side. Keep the fried prawns aside.(Note: Prawns does not require much time to get cooked; also it loses it flavour and taste if it is fried too much and also it turns very dry and firm.)
  • Heat oil in another pan and sauté sliced onions till soft; then add green chillies, garlic and ginger and cook until they turn brown which is the stage beyond the golden colour; do not deep fry and let it turn dark brown. When it turns brown, add the leftover marinade, which is kept aside, after applying on the prawns earlier, and mix well with the onion masala and stir for a minute or till the raw smell goes. At this stage, reduce heat to warm-low and add the shallow-fried prawns to this masala and some crushed curry leaves as well. Mix everything well, adjust the salt and pile up all the masala on the prawns and keep the lid and let it cook , in warm-low flame, for a minute or two or and turn off the stove.
  • Serve warm as an appetizer or with rice or chappathi (Indian flat bread )or Palappam (Kerala’s laced pancakes)
Note: While peeling the shells, keep the tail intact, as it adds a touch of fancy look to the dish, especially when it is served as an appetizer. Those who want to use eerkkili./coconut leaf rib can use fresh raw ones to give it a “Naadan” touch. The tail end of the eerkkili or skewer can be wrapped with a small piece of aluminum foil, while frying and sautéing the prawns, to keep that part clean, when you serve this as an appetizer at a party. Since I don’t have access to eerkkili here, I used skewers. You may try the same preparation without skewers too.

Check out my grandma’s signature dish; "Meen Pollichathu: Fish in Banana leaf wraps – A Central Kerala Delicacy"


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Shn, you've got me drooling, as usual! Great write up and an equally great recipe!! Will try this! :)

  2. Those prawns are really large!! :) Would really love to try them out, thnx for sharing the recipe!

  3. That title made me drool, and then I saw the pics... :)

  4. Yes, that's a mouthful, both the name and the jumbo prawns, but unfortunately, the prawns disappear fast and you're left struggling with the name! It looks really, really tasty!

  5. It was difficult to get jumbo prawns in our place.So we enjoyed the medium or little ones, but don't feel the exact naadan taste when we buy big from here..Looks soo tempting to try it out soon.. :)

  6. Anyone would just devour the prawns - why bother with the name? :)

  7. slurp...that name says.."bet you cant keep it on a plate for long"

    it looks so appetizing and delicious..i have tried the prawns here and the atlantic ones dont taste as good as the naadu ones..But you have made it so good that i cant wait to get hold of one of the eerkillis..;-P

  8. This luks gorgeous Shn, specially to me as i am a die-hard chemeen fan. Love the pics too, totally droolworthy.

  9. i really feel like wolfing them down!!gr8 presentation as usual.

  10. Delicious. I would also go for this chemeen dish.
    About eerkkili, when i was a young girl and if i did something wrong, she used to take this eerkkili from the small coconut tree and tell me if you don't listne you will thallu. Well i must admit i did get few from her now and then

  11. This is a very different recipe. I havent heard about this before. It is easy and i can taste the onion masala

  12. They are huge Prawns. Never cooked Prawns but I have seen King Prawns! Dish has great color, mouthwatering!:))

  13. it looks great... will surely try this... plz check out my blog i passed you an award...

  14. hmmm.....i will try this for my husband.....he loves prawns...although i am allergic to most of seafood except fish....i know its very sad....thanks for the recipe...

  15. Oh I am drooling. Waht a beauty. The colors are so nice. will try.

  16. That looks soooo spicy and good. Great recipe dear...will be adding it to the must try list.

  17. Shn,shall I grab one from that?looks so delicious......jumbo prawns we get here re not so tasty;anyway,your pic. is so tempting,shall try out soon....

  18. Shn, with those pictures and your descrption, you have the vegetarian in me being tempted :).

    Love the earthy touch and the information you serve with each of your stories.

  19. Delicious!!!You are soooooo cruel..."Engane enne kothipicchu kollano??"Pictures are super!!!..
    I can imagine the taste from the picture.

  20. well, how to put the prawns in eerkkil?..u'll put the eerkkil inside the prawn , throughout its length...or how?

  21. Helo dear Mish/..

    Coluld u please publish the real Palappam recipie.. I tried so many but .. always i make some mustake or another,, please..


  22. Shn, I am drooling over the pictures. They look gorgeous, if only I can get my hand on some of them...

  23. k now i have to tell u this but the header is tongue twisting . Have u tried saying that nonstop really fast !! haha
    the prawns look amazing , with all that sauteed onions under it ...yum.

  24. Ohh I saw this post a bit late or else would have cooked it today. Well..may be tomorrow now. It looks absolutely yumm.

  25. OMG those looks deleciousssss mishmash

  26. Shn, I tried it. Was absolutely yummy. I am a bit lazy, so didn't use skewers so it din't look as gorgeous as your picture but the taste was amazing. Thanks for sharing this

  27. Kalai, Pravs, Nags, Mona, Sig ..Thank you :)

    Sra, :) Thanks dear :)

    Seena, yeah naatile chemmeen taste is wayy different....I too miss that one....but luckily the big ones we get here are quite flavorful compared to the small ones.

    Jyothsna, thanks :)

    Mathew, :) this recipe will work without the eerkkils can try with the small or big variety ...Good for your sunday afternoon luxuries :)

    Shella, if you re a chemmeen fan, then I am sure you would like this prep :)

    Saswati, You can :)

    Happy Cook, me too....i used to get with eerkkili as well as chooral :D

    Mocha, This is actually a regular recipe for prawn.chicken et grandma has this way of making everything look and sound fab :)

    Asha, prawn and crabs are irresistible for me....:P

    Sandhya, Thank you :)

    Rashmi, ohh..thats sad...!

    Vimmi, Anuzi, liz, Thanks friends....yes, do try and let me know...:)

    Musical, oh..thats so sinful of me :)

    Kf, vellappozhum okke kazhikkam....veruthe kothikkunnathilum nallathalle athu :P

    Ummukulsoom, yes, thats exactly how you do... :)

    Rachel, Thanks :)

    Ammu, infact I have a draft for Palappam...will publish it this month itself.....its ok, it takes time to master the art of palappam...i 'm still on the learning curve :)

    Mandira, Thank you :)

    kajal, Being a tru -blue mallu, I can say that umpteen times real fast :)

    Shilpa, I am glad you tried it ...yeah u re right , with or without skewers, this tastes real good :) Thanks for the feedback too :)

    Sagari, thanks :)


  28. Hey Mishmash,tried the prawn recipe without the "eerkili" -it was yum and it looked very nice too..guess went overboard with the chilly powder a lil and both of us were sniffing our way thru dinner:).. want to make this for my dad and bro when I go home next-am sure they will love it!-thanks!:)

  29. Shn,chemmeen eerkkili-yil....oh! sorry, skewer-il kuthi ketto......:)valare valare nannayirunnu!!

  30. Shn, you are something else. I am seriously now craving food, more specifically, your food.

  31. Shn..I tried ur chemmeen varattiyathu recipe today & it came out really well. Skewered prawns is next in my list. It looks soo yummy, I cant wait to try it out :))

  32. oh.. thank U Mish.. :-).. pettanayikotte...


  33. OK, so I won't try to say this three times fast! This is my kind of summertime grilling recipe! A gorgeous masala, Shn.

  34. Zo-ya, oh....thanks for such a sweet feedback....I am really happy to hear that :) it is a bit spicy next time adjust without torturing your tastebuds :)

    Liz, eshtapettu alle...:) thank you...btw, easter lent onnum elle..? :P

    Cynthia, we will work on that one :)

    Surya, thank you :) Its a pleasure to read such try and let me know :)

    Ammu, sure :)

    Susan, you may think of reducing the chilly p/w...for our palate itself, its a bit high on the spicy be warned :)))


  35. oh my god thats awesome! love prawns a lot:)

  36. the prawns look real yum and yes its nice to see a traditional kerala recipe on the blogging world. Feels nice when you are away from home.

  37. hi,
    really a terrific recipe. the spice was a little toooooooo much for me otherwise this one is a keeper.was a big hit with husband too.
    thanks rema

  38. Another recipe that's a hit. My husband really appreciated it and I'm going to be putting this on the regular schedule.

    Although both of us are Mallu, the shrimp was a bit spicy for us. I'll probably cut back on the chili powder next time.

    Thanks again!

  39. hey
    prawns looks yummy......

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  41. your Chemmeen was fantastic to cook and eat. Though your pic is absolutly irresistable !u have hooked me

  42. your Chemmeen was fantastic to cook and eat. Though your pic is absolutly irresistable !u have hooked me

  43. Shn, recently I came to ur blog thru aayisrecipes and instantly loved it ... this was the first recipe I tried today and this was absolutely amazing... i have never been a fan of shrimp and I was eating right out of my pan... thank you for the great recipe


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