Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nadan Chemmen Varattiyathu

Nadan Chemmen Varattiyathu / Kerala Prawns Roast
Calling all seafood lovers!!! If you haven't tried this traditional spicy prawns entrée -"Nadan Chemmen Varattiyathu" which is authentic to Central Kerala yet, then this recipe is a good excuse to do so. The nadan chemmen varattiyathu celebrates age-old recipes used by Christian families in the regions of Central Kerala where high quality fresh seafood are ready available through out the year. The backwaters of Central Kerala can proudly boast that it produces one of the the best fresh water prawns in the world. I have some really fond memories of prawns, whether it be the curious visits as a child to the family paddy fields where a rice-prawn rotation is practised (After the rice is harvested, the paddy fields are leased out to prawn farmers for a certain period) or be it eating the prawns in various spice slathered dishes. Nadan Chemmen Varattiyathu - this slow roasted spicy dish is rich tasting, savory and indulgent. How do they do it??? By slow roasting the prawns in spices to release every bit of their delicate flavor. When they came out cooked, dark brown and slathered in spices, you almost could contain the drool!

It is highly suggestive that you use fresh prawns for this dish -"Nadan Chemmen Varattiyathu" because of its superior taste & texture. But that's no problem if fresh prawns are not available - thanks to the "Peeled & Cleaned" packaged prawns that are widely available in the freezer aisle of the super-market. If you have bought prawns that have already been cooked, then they should be added a few minutes before the end of the cooking time, just to reheat them, as overcooking would make them tough & rubbery.

You'll Need:

Raw Shrimp, cleaned.... 1.5 lb
Shallots, thinly sliced.... 1 cup
Garlic, chopped.... 6 pods
Ginger, chopped..... 2" piece
Green Chili, chopped.... 5 no:s
Curry Leaves.... 2-3 sprigs
Chili Powder.... 2 tsp
Turmeric Powder.... 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder.... 1.5 tbsp
Coconut Slices.... 1/3 cup
Coconut Oil.... 3 tbsp
Kudam Pulli (Gamboge)....1 no:
Varatharacha Paste.... 1 tbsp*
Garam Masala.... 1 tsp
Lime Juice.... half of a lime.
Salt.... to taste.

Here Is How:

1. Wash & soak the kudam pulli in just enough water to make it soft. Keep aside.

2. Peel and devein the shrimp and then rinse them under cold water. Drain well. Marinate the cleaned & deveined prawns with the mixture of garam masala, turmeric, salt & lemon juice and let it stand, for 20 minutes to overnight, in the refrigerator.

3. Set a bottom heavy Saute Pan on medium-low heat, heat coconut oil and saute shallots, minced ginger, garlic & green chili with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook till translucent or golden brown. Now add curry leaves, turmeric powder, red chili powder and coriander powder stir. Also stir in the coconut slices and fry or a minute or two.
4. Add marinated prawns and the soaked pulli without adding any water even to cook the prawns.

5. Once prawns cooked, add Varatharach Paste* and roast them on low flame for about 10-15 minutes, until the prawns are in brown colour & the gravy is fully dried up.

6. Just a few minutes before turning off the heat, make a well at the center of the prawn mixture and add a little coconut oil & to it add curry leaves and then cover the well with prawns. This would give this dish its typical varattiya aroma.

Culinary Tips:

If you have bought prawns that have already been cooked, then they should be added a few minutes before the end of the cooking time, just to reheat them, as overcooking would make them tough & rubbery. I highly suggest that fresh prawns be used for this particular recipe which would better absorb the spices as its gets cooked.

* Varatharach Paste : is made by dry roasting various spice & grated coconut till dark brown, which is then dry grinded to form into a thick smooth paste. This paste can be stored in the refrigerator for upto 6 months. Again the fully prepared & ready-to-use varatharacha paste are now available at your local malayali grocers under the brand name *"Saras Varutharacha Paste".


  1. What are the ingridients for varutharacha paste.
    I would like to make my own rather than using store bought.

  2. Can you list the ingredients for varatharacha paste? I cannot find Saras in my place.

  3. i have no clue if u read ur comments or not but are u a desi wa la arab? find ur blog and even book list very very intresting seems a looot like me. and that frnd of urs fami seems like some one i knw...