Tempered Prawns/Shrimps Curry – Traditional Sri Lankan Style ඉස්සො උයල


Weekend is finally here. Everybody is at home and I felt like preparing a curry that everyone at my home would enjoy. Then again I didn’t want to stay in the kitchen forever. I had some frozen prawns in my fridge for a week now. So, I thought of preparing one of our favorite seafood curries of all time: tempered prawns curry.

This dish goes really well with steamed rice.



  • 600 g of fresh prawns or shrimps with shells – heads removed and cleaned
  • ¼ of a medium-sized onion – finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely sliced
  • 1 to 1 ¼ cups of thinner coconut milk (Diya kiri) or water
  • 1 cup of thicker coconut milk (Uku kiri )
  • ½ to ¾ a tsp of red chili powder (I recommend to start with ½ a tsp and altering it for your taste during your second time cooking if you expect the curry to be more hot)
  • ½ a tsp of turmeric powder
  • ½ a tsp of roasted curry powder
  • A pinch of black pepper powder (Optional)
  • ½ a lime
  • ¼ of a medium-sized tomato – diced (Optional)
  • Some curry leaves
  • 3 cardamom seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • Salt as needed
  • 1 ½ to 2 tbsp. of cooking oil


First, in a bowl, combine turmeric powder, lime, black pepper powder and 2 pinches of salt together with prawns and leave it aside. Now, warm the oil under medium heat level start frying the onions. Then, once the onions become tender bring in garlic. Remember, it is not necessary to fry the onions until turn to golden as most of other Sri Lankan dishes. Now, soon as the garlic start to pleasantly stimulate your olfactory bulb with its ravishing smell, lower the heat and bring in curry leaves, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, curry powder and chili powder to the party, and continue stir frying for about 5 seconds. Importantly, make sure that the heat is very low when adding the chili powder as it  may over roast instantly and will give an unpleasant taste. As for starters, I highly recommend that you completely off the heat before adding the chili instead of lowering the temperature. Anyways, then, pour the prawns-spices mixture and tomatoes (optional) to the pot and stir fry everything for about 30 seconds. Now, add the thinner coconut milk and cook for several minutes under high heat. Then, add the thicker coconut milk and simmer until the gravy reaches your expected consistency. At this point or little earlier you can and could adjust salt for your taste.




  • Traditionally, all the spices were combined with prawns before bringing in to fried onions, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves mix. Here, we fried chili and curry powder in order to get a good color to the dish. So, if you want to make this in 100% traditional manner, now you know how to do it as well.
  • Traditionally, tomatoes were not used in this recipe but during its evolution most have been using tomatoes.


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