Monday, October 15, 2007

Chemmeen Varattiyathu – Spicy Prawn Roast from Kuttanadu & A virtual sneak-peak in to the village!

Sometimes we tend to romanticize a place a lot and it could be because of all the reading we have done or all those documentaries we have seen or it could be because of the food we have tasted or the people we have interacted with. I have been building up such a heightened image of Kuttanadu, “the rice bowl of Kerala” through some of my posts and if you are a regular here, perhaps you already know that it is mainly because I have never been to this place, blessed with natural beauty and known for it simple people and CJJ has the habit of waxing eloquently about its scenic beauty, calm and quiet surroundings and ofcourse the fabulous food he has tasted from his grandma.

Today when we were having our lunch together, I pulled up the topic of Kuttanadu, clearing my doubts as to how they used to visit their maternal home, traversing through those narrow canals in small boats, how the private boat-jetty was used, how the houses were built behind those thin stretches of pavement, built with clay and mud from the canal and so on. He started explaining with a smile on his face, telling me stories and anecdotes from his childhood and teens but slowly I saw him getting wrapped by the clouds of nostalgia. He mirrored some of those cherished moments of his childhood when they used to visit the maternal house traveling 3-4 hours in a public transport bus and then taking the private boat from the jetty and along with his two brothers, climbing on to the top deck of the boat, under the strict supervision of their father….and when they arrived at the village, in their well pressed flashy shorts and T-shirts, wearing black or canvas shoes, CJJ still remembers ,the natural inquisitiveness on the face of the villagers wondering where these “Pattanathile kuttikal” ( city kids) were headed to or to which house they belonged.

During their week long vacation, they made a visit to their paternal house as well and he remembers how they used to play cricket along with their distant cousins in their spacious backyard and those days when they used to go for hunting, with their uncles and coming back with 10-15 birds from crane family and grandma making her signature dish, “Mundi” (from crane family) Roast and all of them relishing the peppery, crispy and roasted bird. Though as kids their main duty was to hold the torch light, the adventurous days of the childhood still holds a special place in his mind. And if it was a Sunday, they used to go to the nearby church, starting 30 minutes early, though it was only 10 minutes walk, so they had time for a casual chit-chat with the locals on the way; and in the evening, his uncles used to take them to the school ground to watch football matches between local clubs and again the kids enjoyed all the attention as the villagers would be curious to see the not-so-familiar kids around. When CJJ started working, he still used to visit his maternal house once in a while and those traveling with him in the boat would be staring at him as he would be in his jean and trendy shoes and carrying a backpack which was again another unfamiliar sight for the villagers and enough to give them an impression that he was a “varathan”, meaning an outsider and then one of them would ask him, “Mon, evidutheya?” meaning “ Honey, Which family are you from ?” and the moment he told them their family name, that triggered another set of enquiries about his parents and their well-being as everyone know each other and that’s the beauty of this village

One funny incident that’s still tickling CJJ’s memories is his visit during his +2 days and this is how he describes the incident,”….. I was tagging along my father to his ancestral home and I was wearing my ankle shoe which was the IN-style those days, and on the way, there was this pavement work going on with mud taken from the canal. Normally people remove their footwear and walk barefoot. But coming from a city and wearing trendy clothes, my pride didn’t allow me to do so. So by the time we reached home, my shoes were covered with mud, a thick 2 inch layer of heavy mud. I learned the lesson the hard way and on the way back, I walked barefoot :)…It took me couple of days to clean my shoes :) “.

Do you have any idea how I feel when I get mails from my brother-in-law, R with photographs capturing the lush greenery of this place, supplementing CJJ’s stories?? And that’s one of those days, I change my tone of gratefulness, for giving a romantic house-boat ride in the backwaters, to one of complaint, for not taking me to Kainakary, the village where his grandma resides and in his defense, he always has the excuse that the house was locked that day and grandma was not there!! Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to let you have a sneak-peak into the simplicity I keep talking about, before getting into the recipe. These are some of the pictures R sent me, from his last trip to Kuttanadu.

Click on the picture to start your slide show

Chemmeen/Prawns Roast is another Kuttanadan recipe I learned from CJJ’s grandma. In the initial years of my stay here in US of A, I never used to cook prawns much for the simple reason that it did not taste the same like the ones we used to have in Kerala. But ever since I tried this concoction, I am a convert. I generally don’t do a taste-test while cooking, except towards the end to check if the salt is right as I don’t prefer to get used to the taste before it comes to the table but trust me, when I prepare this particular dish, I love to do sampling as the smell is quite irresistible and I keep nibbling them until a good quantity is missing from the pan! CJJ was not a prawn lover until he tried this delicacy and these days I see him walking to the kitchen and taking small bites even before it reaches the table :) This is a hot and spicy seafood preparation, spiced up with the aroma of fennel seeds and pungent black peppercorns, cooked along with small onions which has a distinct taste and wonderful aroma of coconut oil and the enticing fragrance of the curry leaves. I prefer to have this dish with a bowl of warm rice without any other dishes, not to dilute the taste of the dish:) A MUST –TRY for prawn lovers!!


  • 1 lb (approx. ½ kg) prawns or shrimp peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly
  • 1 cup red small onions thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup garlic minced
  • 1- 1 ½ tbsp ginger minced
  • 4 green chillies split lengthwise
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  • 1/3 cup small coconut slices/’Thengakothu
  • 1 piece ‘kudam-puli’/Gamboge
  • Masala powder (Recipe follows)
  • 1 ½ tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp red chilly powder
  • ¼ tsp +1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp + 1tbsp coconut oil
To make the Masala Powder: (For 1 lb prawns)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds/’Perinjeerakam
  • ½ tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4-5 small ½ inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 clove
  • 1 cardamom
  • Grind and powder the spices, mentioned to make the masala powder. Make a marinade with this masala powder, turmeric, salt and lemon juice and apply it thoroughly on the cleaned prawns, using your hands and leave it in room temperature for around 20 minutes. Soak the kudam-puli in some water to make it soft.
  • In the meantime, chop the red small onions, ginger and garlic.
  • Heat oil in a big shallow pan , sauté the small onions until they turn pale in low flame; add minced garlic, ginger and green chillies cook until everything turns transparent, At this stage, add turmeric powder, red chilly powder and coriander powder and stir continuously until the raw smell goes, making sure that you don’t burn your onions or spice powders. Now add the coconut slices (coconut slices should be smaller than the prawns) and 2 sprigs of curry leaves and combine well with the base mixture and then add the marinated prawns to this; take out the leftover masala from the bowl by adding a couple of tablespoons of water and pour it to the pan and also the softened kudam-puli (without water) and cook covered, in medium heat, until the prawns changes its colour and is almost cooked. Do not add water to cook the prawns. Once the prawns are almost cooked, remove the lid and roast them, in low flame for 10-15 minutes, until it reaches a brown colour, as in the picture, and fully dried up. Do a taste –test in between and adjust the salt, if needed. Just two minutes before turning off the heat, make a well in the centre of the mixture and add 1 tbsp coconut oil and a sprig of curry leaves and coat the entire dish well with this oil and herb; do not omit this stage of cooking as it really helps the dish to attain a wonderful aroma of the coconut oil and fresh fragrance of the curry leaves.
  • Serve warm with rice or chappathi (Indian bread). This dish attains its real flavour after a couple of hours from cooking and tastes the best, the nexy day!!
Note: This Chemmeen/Prawns Roast is a spicy dish and if you are used to medium heat, you may reduce the amount of chilly powder. Please do not substitute small onions with big onions for convenience sake, as it completely changes the taste of the dish. It might be time consuming to clean up and slice the small onions but the taste it produces is worth the effort and time. Some non-Keralites might be hesitant to use coconut oil; yes, you are free to use your preferred oil but I suggest using coconut oil, to all my fellow Keralites, as the taste this particular oil gives is quite unique and very significant in this preparation, for its authentic taste. If you do not have Kudam-puli in your pantry, you may skip it as, in this preparation, it is added mainly to speed up the cooking as well as for easy digestion.

Other Kuttanadan Recipes from this blog:
Other Chemmeen/Prawn recipe from this blog:

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. this dish used to be one of my favourites when i regularly ate seafood. those pics of kuttanad are so beautiful.

  2. Shn, the virtual Kuttanad tour was great! Thanks a lot, dear, for sharing the pictures. And the chemeen dish is so tempting even to a non sea-food eater like me!!

  3. Beautiful sceneries of Kuttanadu,Shn; everyone seeing this pics will surely plan a trip to this lovely place!
    And this prawn roast,it's so tempting,I want this for lunch....

  4. second on the line !!..My, Onida !!!!..Chemmen with thenghakothu, gosh..can any mallu resist that!!!..really drooling over the image..
    it was Id here, so was on a break,,and now fells so refreshing seeing these delicacies in front...
    and the potrayal of Kuttanadu, very true, edo..felt as if me too, was going back to my "kuttikalam" going to mom's home @Palluruthi, (near Fort Kochi), from Ernakulam...its just 20-30 mins drive, but still used to get the same looks and questions from elders.

    Sorry, i misses ur previous post..too gorgeous cake, Shn..hey, what do u expand this Shn to?...Sherin, Sheena,Shine, Shiny ???

    ..just tryin out the various permutations and

  5. Shn, I've been to Kainakary, we went to Alleppey for a holiday and the boat ride took us to this place - we visited the church of the local famous saint and the sisters in the nunnery there even prayed for us!

  6. Mishy, I am off blogging world due to time constraint but yours and Sig's blogs are always in my top list. Love the way you weave the story and blog about yummy Kuttandan recipes.

    Your Kuttanadan Chicken is a regular at my house:):). Now will try this one soon.

  7. Chemmeen roast looks too good ..So much kuttanadan..

    The pics made me nostalgic..younger days spent with the backwaters.. dad's house in alleppey..

  8. The dish looks very appealing visually and prawns are my favourite. sea food..
    I cook prawns in a similar manner but have never used the coconut bits..should try it..and you are very right about the coconut oil aroma..
    I love the aroma of cocnut oil and the fried curry leaves ...

  9. what a tasty dish! the pictures are so tempting...

  10. Wow i am getting homesick. Mu dads place is in Thakazy near Allepy and seeing your pice brought back childhood memories.
    Love the Chemmen dish.
    While typing this my mouth is wattering :-)

  11. i love the kerala pics..paradise on earth...

  12. The prawns are so big. Being the selfish(oops shellfish )lover I would take crabs &prawns anyday. This recipe is ear marked.

  13. Pictures of Kuttanadu - makes me want to go there and visit right away and for the Prawn Roast they are absolutely delicious looking.

  14. OMG!! Shn, those photos are so beautiful!! Lush green and water.My kinda place but I would run away after 2 days. I am a city girl!;D
    Prawn dish looks great.
    I love to read your stories.

  15. I am drooling already....will get back after i make this :)

  16. Yes must try indeed. Girl you have the awesomest prawns in town always.

    I have been to Kumaragam, ok only as a tourist but that brief visit made me want to stay there. You are so lucky, you must go back to Kuttnad on your next visit to India

  17. Can't go wrong with prawns Mish, Pic is Mouth Watering!!!!!. Thanks for the recipe.

  18. This prawn curry is freakingly awesome and I am an avid prawn lover, loved that slide show Shn, wow so nice to see our Motherland snaos after a very long time. I can relate to that nostalgia when we go back in our thoughts to visit such wonderful places. I would surely love to try this recipe, but did u mean Kudam puli aka tamarind pulp? or kokkam?

    Pls clarify my doubts dear!

  19. I really want to try this prawn recipe... But I am not sure if I get access to all ingredients listed there... let me check and see :)

  20. the kuttanad virtual tour is so beutifull thns for sharing Shn, and what to say about the dish it looks fabulous though not for me the masala is obvious is should have tasted great :)

  21. your description of the place and dish has my mouth watering Shn, I'm bookmarking the recipe!

  22. Superb tasting chemmeen varattiyathu. Made this today for dinner and we all enjoyed this along with kanji.I have no left overs now..will have to make this again very soon. Looking forward to more and more of kuttanadu recipes !!

  23. shn,
    kuttanad pics adipoli.
    vaayil oru kappal odikanulla vellam undu ippol..:)chemeen varattiyathu looks delicious.

  24. wow..this one is actually the party of my trinity of all time favourite dishes..along with chakkakurumaanga curry and rice..

    i absolutely love this one..seriously i can hearing grumblings in my stomach..

    and btw the kuttanadan dishes are the best..i thinking kottayam comes close too..but esp for duck and fish dishes kuttanadan style rocks.!!

    I think i ll try this using ur recipie..once i had tried but the Puli was way excessive making it a disaster!!;-P

  25. Shn,
    Wish ate Prawns so that I cud try ur yummy looking dish dear.....
    The scenic pics are bautiful...after all its God's own country :-)

  26. S,really want to get some, that brings me back home..
    Whenever we go for vacation, we plan to go to back waters but the season is monsoon, so every one at home is scared, which prevents our travel..

  27. Beautiful virtual tour...the dish looks sooo tempting...but I rarely cook it nowadays as Dinesh is allergic to shellfish( he , of course doesn't mind if I do, but you see, he too is so fond of it, poor thing) ... maybe I should come over to your place for a treat :)

  28. Exquisite slideshow, Shn. How I love lagoons, canals and waterways. I can well imagine traveling along the current. Quite lovely. And I am potty for any shrimp dish offered me, too.

  29. Bee, wonder how you manage to remain vegetarian so successfully after enjoying the taste of non-veg delicacies. Admire your will-power and self control!!

    Musical, thanks for your continued support even when I post something which you cant even try eating. Means a lot, dear :) and glad you enjoyed the virtual tour.

    Liz,engottu varunno..? namukku food kazhichu adichu polikkam :)))

    Kitchen Scientist,:)) you always make me smile with your comments!! so I transported you to ur kuttikkalam , eh ?:) And the names...there re people who call me shaheen and then someone thought its Sheen...anyway, you guys are not even close..keep trying :D

    Sra, hahha...I am from Kerala and I am all going ga-ga about a place you have already visited and I have not :)) so did you like the place..? did you like the food they served on the house-boat?

    Reena, hey, where were you?? how ve u been , dear ?:) thanks so much for coming by and saying hi :) if you like chicken roast and if it is a regular at our house, then I am sure you will like this preparation too. try and let know for sure :) take Care!

    Bharathy,so you also rewinded your memories after reading this, huh? :) Thanks a lot!

    Rachel, do try with coconut bits, its yummy...that crunchy one in between a prawn, oh myy....awesome :))) Try this with the masala I have given...thats what makes the whole difference.

    Lissie, Thank you so much:)

    Happy cook, :)) thakazhi must also be a beautiful place, isn't it?

    Rachna, oh yeah...very much :)

    Mocha, dear, try and let me know...may reduce the chilly powder for kids.

    ISG, make a trip to Alappuzha and Kuttanadu on your next trip to India :)

    Asha, yeah you re right.....with all the comforts we re used, it would be difficult stay for longer duration...but a vacation is always good:)

    Pravs, I am SOOOOO glad to know that your family liked the dish and that too you were so fast in trying out. with your comment, I am again craving for some of those prawns :D

    Sandeepa, yes, dear, its on the cards for sure :) as a prawn lover, you may give it a try. You may want to reduce the chilly powder, if little S likes to eat the dish.

    Rina, thanks so much, hope you give a try :)

    Padma, Kudam-puli is neither tamarind pulp nor Kokum. It is entirely different from those two , this is called Gamboge. If you dont have kudam-puli, you can omit, it is not going to make any difference as the ingredient, in this particular dish is added to speed up cooking and also for good digestion after eating prawns.

    Anh, ohh..i wish you could get those ingredients from an Indian store in your vicinity. But do reduce the chilly powder for you :)

    Roopa, yes, its the masala that makes the whole difference.

    Nabeela, do try and let me sure you will like it :)

    Prajusha, :)) make it immediately :)

    Mathew, how can a Kottayam achayan like you , say no to chemmeen roast??? :)) if you like duck roast, you may try the same with my chicken roast recipe, which is again ammachi';s recipe. For both these preparation, it is the masala that makes the difference, so if you dont have an option to powder these spices, try to get a small coffee grinder which will do the work. Since you are used to making "beef malarthiyathu", you know how to do the roasting part :) kudam-puli, in this chemmeen roast, is used mainly for easy digestion and to speed up the cooking, so just use "one small" piece. Unlike the fish curry, here it is NOT used for getting puli and flavour.

    Sirisha, nice to know you enjoyed the post and thanks a lot for this support.:)

    Seena, ohh,,next time you dont go during monsoon season...a trip in backwaters is definitely worth. do make it once.

    Sunita, yea..I understand, it is not a good feeling when your other half has to stay away from such a delicacy. You should deft'ly visit me if you come this side.I would be happy to have you over :)

    Susan, if you liked this slide show, I wonder how much you will fall in love with kerala , once you make a visit there. Its worth a trip...see if you can make it once...also travel to the northern part of India to enjoy our beautiful architectures and people. If you want to see more pics of backwaters of Kerala, click on my post,


  30. ayyooo kothippikkalle shn...i'm drooling...chemmen varattiyathu...wonderful pics...i hav been to kuttanadu once...really lovely place..wid cousins in allepey... my hometown is all ur kuttanaduan dishes...i was searching for prawns recipe....thanku for sharing dear

  31. drooling all over the keyboard now... I too believe in not diluting dishes like this, and have it with rice, and may be some yogurt if the dish is too dry... Siv is just the opposite, he wants to have everything together... :)

  32. I had also tried so hard guessing your name..Shn..

    Sonaaa,(the Kitchen Scientist)..,her name cannot be Sherin,..neither shiny,,nor shine..(as these are supposed to be Christian names)

    Cannot be Shaheen too.. :/ :/

    Shana?? Sahana??

    Hope we will come up with the right guess soon..!!;)

  33. yeah..I have a coffee grinder..and I should be tryin this out..too good a dish to be kept awaiting.. ;-P

    Beef malarthiyathu is a exquisite dish which cannot be prepared by rookies like you!! needs lot of experience and skills.hehehe ;-P ..

    Please dont ask me how I made it..It is a secret formula!!

  34. It's funny that I just read an article the other day that said studies have shown that humans tend to romanticize places more and more with time. Like as in "the good ol days." Your photos are just lovely and your recipe delicious.

  35. I love it when you share your life and memories with us and give us a glimpse into the life of these various places. Thank you for being so generous with your time, thoughts and memories.

  36. I love reading your stories:)

  37. bloginte width koottiyo? oru difference thonnunnu ivide! you & cjj bloginte 2 side-lum ninnu angottum ingottum valichuneettiya poleyundu.. hehehe
    chemmeen varattiyathu looks tempting. :)

  38. hi Mishmash, alright so I have to keep on guessing, huh? Bharathy's post.., will browse thru some islamic names in the net with Shn and come up with options keto, till then,..u can remain as Onida TV to me, okie..deary!!!

  39. Remya, welcome here :) kothippikkunnilla, you can try for yourself :) and let me know if you like this one too :)

    Sig, so lets just say girls know to enjoy the dish better :D

    Bharathy, I have not started the guessing game yet :)

    Mathew,LOL :))) I already got good feedbacks from two people after trying this particular one, so am sure you would like it. If you are like CJJ, this is the best combo with any drinks :P

    Susan,you re right we grow older, our memories about places receive a totally different angle.

    Cynthia, I should thank you for patiently going through all these "stories" of mine :)))))

    Tm, thanks , so glad to hear that :)

    RP, hahahha.....athey width has been increased....i guess u re the only one to really notice that :P

    Kitchen Scientist,hahah...I am not Islamic either ::D I think I am happy with Onida :)


  40. this sounds so and my daughter went to get our indian food fix yesterday!

  41. R1idAl Your blog is great. Articles is interesting!

  42. Adipoli!! I will try some time later.

  43. Shn, will definitely try the prawn varatiyadhu . You've been tempting me with those kuttanadan pics and recipes for very long time now. I've already convinced my hubby for a visit there during our next trip. for now, he has agreed.:)


  44. oh ma....tried ur recipe.
    ultimate recipe
    mouthwatering....i'm from alpy..but never had this one b4.

  45. Dear Mishmash!
    Last Friday we had a party here and I made this Chemmen Varattiyathu..It was a hit!!Everybody liked this and asked for the recipe...Satyam parayatte njan adyam aarodum parangilla .."ethe copy adichathanne" pakshe ente kanavan pani pattichu..ellavaroodum vilichu paranju,ellavarkum njan blog address um paranjukodukkendi vannu...

  46. I HATE YOU!!! grrrrrrrrr!
    You are solely responsible for me and my family gaining weight :D lol!

    P.S: Loved the 8th pic in that slide. very artistic

  47. I tried this today and it was ok but had a sweet taste. we do not add meat masala but add more ginger,green chilies and more pieces of Kudam puli. it will be really spicy. thanks for sharing the recipe.

    loved the beautiful pictures of kuttanadu. I miss kerala dearly.

  48. Classy...Had a good lunch with prawns....Cheers.

  49. Lovely blog and a great recipe!, Shn.
    Tried some of your other recipes too, and each one has turned out great--Thanks

  50. Shn,I started out my cooking experiments with and has now graduated to your site.It has really helped me a lottt..I have now tried this chemmeen varattiyathu a couple of times and it has come out in flying colours all the had this typical kuttanadan taste...I have really enjoyed your other recipes as well like kuttanadan chicken,fish molee...Now will have to try your desserts.I have never had any luck with desserts before :-(.

  51. Hi Shn,

    Now I don't whether to say "I love u" or"I hate you" .. love you for the amazing recipe.. hate your for those increase in the number on the weight scale! :)

    I made this recipe.. well, no words girl! Loved it and ended up having li'l too much of rice also(I am supposed to be dieting, which I think I should stop, now that I have found your blog). Never know how much you gobble up with this absolutely yummy prawn roast! The recipes you post are much healthy, but its so tasty that I better stop my dieting! :)

    Thanks Sweetie


  52. Hi Shn,

    This recipe looks absolutely amazing! When you say small red onions do you mean shallots or regular red onions?

    Thank you


  53. Hi Shn,

    This dish looks absolutely fabulous! When you say small red onions do u mean shallots or regular red onions?

  54. Hi Shn Cjj I( respect your efforts in putting together a blog like this.I should tell you that i have made lots of your recipe and they were all fantastic....

  55. Hi, Shn

    This is one of the best Prawn Roast, I have made it. Thanks a ton to you. A typical Kuttanadan taste. My parents are from Kuttanadu - Kavalam
    The Recipes, Scenic Beauties, Environment etc etc..... is just mind blowing. Keep rocking. Love all your recipes. Thanks for this lovely dish.

    Asha Raj

  56. Recipe is so good, by the time I was done with my salt and pepper taste checks it was almost empty....First time I hated the idea of sharing it with my hus..

  57. Hi Shn,

    Thanks a ton for the recipe. I tried it yesterday. It came out good. But, there was a little overwhelming taste of masala (same happened with my biriyani preparation following your recipe). I think, I am doing something wrong. I fried the fennel seeds and other masala ingredients till it is light brown. Do I need to fry it more? I powdered it to the extent possible in mixie - wet grinder. (It was not as smooth as store brought garam masala) Will that cause this? Or, is it just adding a little more than what was needed.. Your nadan recipes make me drool and I want to try them all..But, since I get this masala part wrong, I thought it is better to clarify with you.Hope you can help me. I am fairly new to naadan cooking. Pls help!!!

  58. Ann, Firstly my recipe doesnt call for dry roasting the whole spices before next time skip that might just make the spice mix more stronger...

    secondly...measurements are in US cups and spoon measurement..also follow the same unit of measurement for all ingredients...

    thirdly...u might be getting really good quality whole spices, with all its which case, use less....

    lastly, it could be that our tastebuds have different spice needs..:) feel free to reduce the spice mix to suit to your taste....glad to know that u re trying out recipes from wishes :)

  59. Tried this! Loved it..

    Will try again with less spice:)

  60. The above recipe picture has been copied, edited and posted in

  61. yummyyyy..tastyyyy

  62. Hi mishy chechi
    lovely recipe.surely write about it in my blog and link it back to u.anf forgot to mention u r meen curry and chicken roast adipoliyanu tto.undaaki nokkiyatha.
    will link my post to your blog too.please put up more kuttanadan recipes.


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