Dried salted prawns (or shrimps) are another tasty dried seafood in the Sri Lankan all-time menu. Personally, I love these for their crispy texture and salty prawn-ish taste. To make this dish, you don’t necessarily need dried prawns from Sri Lanka. Frankly, if you are living away from Sri Lanka, it is really hard to find these dried and salted prawns that are imported from Ceylon. So, you can always go for an alternative. That is, if you can find Vietnamese, Thai or Chinese grocery stores around, most of them have dried shrimps. Well, most of them that they have are not salted but you know what, that will also work. All you have to do it keep them soaked in lightly salted water for an hour and follow the same steps from A-Z.
Ha, remember, these are not the golden colored, dried, tiny and transparent-like shrimps that you find in Indian or Sri Lankan stores. They are specifically called ‘Kunisso’ or ‘Kuni’ and yes they can be prepared in the same way but they have a whole different taste. Anyways, read the packages or ask the shop assistant and get it clarified. Frankly, I have been looking for these specific dried shrimps in several Sri Lankan stores during past few months and I couldn’t find any. Then, when I was asking my mom about a way to find these, she told me that “it’s your lucky day” and that she brought some from Sri Lanka, six months ago. So thanks to her, I could enjoy tasting and sharing the recipe with you guys.
- 500g of dried salted shrimps (Isso Karawala)
- 2 onions – finely sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic – chopped
- Small piece of ginger (2 – 3cm) – finely chopped
- 1 – 1 ½ tbsp of dried red chili flakes
- ½ a stick of cinnamon – crushed
- 4 seeds of cardamom
- 3 cloves
- ¼ of a medium sized tomato
- ½ a small lime or ¼ of a medium sized lime
- Several curry leaves
- Pinch of salt
- Cooking oil as necessary
- Lukewarm water as necessary
Normally, these dried salted shrimps are with too much of salt to our taste. So, you should gently wash with lukewarm water. This way, you are able to get rid of the excessive salt that they carry. Remember, it is fine to leave the head portions intact and you don’t have to remove them while cleaning. Well, if you want, you can just remove the antenna parts. Ok, even that is not necessary either. I remove them as I don’t like the messy look that they give to the dish. Am I being mean here? I am sorry Mr. Shrimp. I know we humans are the worse.
Now, warm a significant amount of oil that is sufficient to submerge all of them and stir fry under low-to-medium heat until you see the shrimps are dehydrated once again. Remember, here your goal is just to get rid of the absorbed water and not to fully cook them. After, take them out of the pan and discard the oil that’s been used.
Firstly, warm around 2- 3tbsp of cooking oil (under moderate heat) and stir fry garlic, ginger, curry leaves, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon for about 1 minute. Then, add the onions and continue stir frying until onions become softened for about 3 to 4 minutes. Importantly, stir continuously in order to prevent burning the borders of the onion slices. At this point, you can add a pinch of salt to the onion mix. Remember, though we washed the salted shrimps, they already carry more than enough salt to flavor your dish. We are adding salt here just to salt the onions. We do this because, since we washed most of the salt on the surfaces of the shrimps, we reduced the chance of getting the salt of the shrimps contacting the onions. Also remember that eventually onions will get salt from the shrimps at the end. So make sure you only add a pinch at this point and not salt to your taste. Ok, back to the next step. Now, bring in the prepared shrimps in and continue stir frying for about 5 minutes. Then, lower the heat a bit and add chili flakes to the fiesta and continue stirring rigorously for about a minute. At this point, you should see the oil turning to reddish-golden coz of the chili flakes. Now, add the tomatoes and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. At this point, you can bring the heat back to moderate level. The concept is simple, you lower the heat to prevent burning the chili flakes and now you can increase as juicy tomatoes are coming in. Finally, squeeze the lime over and mix well for about 30 seconds while frying.
Note: You have the option of only using tomatoes instead of combining with lime. Or the other way around, only with line. In such cases, just adjust the quantities according to your taste. Remember, traditionally, Sri Lankans use lime with most of the dishes made, primarily, with shrimps or prawns. However, tomatoes are generally used in most of the stir fried dishes of dried seafood. Personally, I like the combination of both. You can definitely try as you want. For your information, this is majorly been made with only tomatoes and not with both. But, trust me, this is way tastier.