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Konju Theeyal – Prawns In Spicy Gravy , Kerala Special

Chemmeen  or   Konju  as  prawns are  called in  Malayalam is  popular  all over  Kerala. We, the people  from the  coast,  have  a  special place in our  hearts  for  sea food.  Prawns or  shrimp cook  easily,  tastes delicious  and  is – drum roll please – bone less.  Even  when my babies were  babies  this is  something  they could  eat  by themselves.  Steamed  and  served  with a  spicy dip,  stir fried ,  deep fried  or   made  into  curries ,  cutlets  …  in short the options are  endless .

Konju Theeyal - Kerala Style Shrimp Curry with roasted coconut and spices .

Today’s  dish Konju Theeyal  or Varutharacha  Chemmeen curry,  is  a  hearty curry reserved  for  those  days when you want  to  make  the  meal a extra  special.   It  is a hearty and  satisfying  prawn  dish,  and  something I would  choose  to serve  with  the  lightly  fragrant  ghee  rice.   Make a  side  salad and  the  meal is  complete ,  no question of  left overs :-). Not too  fancy or  time  consuming,  but  not  your  everyday meal  either !

Roasted  and  ground coconut is  a  popular  ingredient  in  Kerala  and  Konkan   areas.  Roasting  concentrates  and  caramelizes  the  coconut.  It  acquires much deeper  flavors  than that of fresh  coconut or  coconut  milk.

Roasting  could probably  be the  hardest  part of  cooking  in this recipe.  Back in Kerala  the  cooks  are   skilled  in roasting  the  fresh grated  coconut  to deep  brown color on stove  top.   I on the  other hand is a  kultz in this department.  So I  resort  to  dried  finely grated  coconut.  Few minutes  in a  medium hot the pan  stirring  often is  all it  takes.  Traditionally this  roasted  coconut  bits  are   ground  used  grinding  stones.   All the  oils release and  the  the  dry  coconut  turns  into a  smooth  brown paste.

A  heavy duty blender   with a  small  blending  jar   could  accomplish  this  job , or  a  coffee  grinder.  But  even  if  you end up  a  bit  grainy paste  the  curry will still very delicious.

Konju Theeyal - Kerala Style Shrimp Curry with roasted coconut and spices

This  is  one  of  those  meals  that can  be  made into a  family affair. Apart  from  the  roasting  coconut part,  it is  pretty    easy.  Prawns take next to no time to cook  and  if you get  the peeled or  the  easy peel  variety  all the more  easier.  Everything  will come together in  under  an hour.  Get  your   fine  china  out, have the  kids  set  the table  and  enjoy.

Did I say this  is  kid friendly ? Of course I am  basing  this  assertion on the  very scientific  approach of  eyeballing  the  number of  times  prawn  dishes  are  eaten  compared  to  the fish dishes. If  I fry a  a  bony fish , chances  are  it  is  left  on the  plate,  but  fried  prawns  are  never  left  behind !  See  the  method  is  very scientific 😉

Kid  friendly or  not, we  all love  it here. You can  not  imagine  the  number  of  different  ways prawns  are  cooked in South  India. Prawns in spicy sauces, with  vegetables,  in  coconut milk ,  dried  and  powdered the list  goes  on.  There is even a  prawn  chutney  with  fresh  green  chilies  and  onions 🙂 .

I often  add vegetables –  plantains, jackfruit  seeds , bread fruit  etc  –  in this   curry.  Anything  that  can  be  cut  into  similar  size  as  the  prawns, holds  its  shape   after  cooking  and  does  not  have a  long  cooking  time, can be  added  here.   You  could  leave  out  the  vegetables, but  I would highly  recommend  experimenting  with  veggies, or  for get  rid  of  the   prawns  and  make  the vegetarian version 🙂 . Of  course   that  might  mean MUTINY !

Konju Theeyal - Kerala Style Shrimp Curry with roasted coconut and spices

So here it is – dry roast  and  cool the  coconut . Grind  to a  paste with  spices.  Par cook the  vegetables  and  prawns.  Add the paste,  and  tamarind  (or use  tomatoes ),cook and  add seasonings.  Simple ? I should  think so.

Growing  up  there  were  many vegetarians  among   the   family and   friends.  A  curry  like  this    can easily be  used  to  feed  a  mixed   group.  Once  the  vegetables  are  par cooked ,   divide  the   mix  and  add the  prawns  to  one  portion   and  cook both  separately .    There  is  your vegan  version  and seafood  version!.  Do you see  why these  dishes  are popular ?

Interestingly most  of  the  vegetarians  I knew  as a  child , would  just   pick out  the  shrimp  from  the  curry  and  not  give  it  another  thought.  You wont  really  see  many   from  the  coast  thumping  their  noses  at  sea food  or  any food  for  that  matter.  Or I someone  pointed  out  to  me   recently, may be  I just  hung  out  with a  more  tolerant  kind.

There  are  two versions  of  this  recipe,  one  where  all   the  ground  paste and  spices  just  coats  the  prawns  and  vegetables ,  and  the other version  as a  thick   curry.    Usually   the  thick  version is  used  when you  serve  it  along  with  other curries or  if you plan on  wrapping  pathiri  or  rotis   with it .   Use only a  fraction of  the water  in the  recipe  below   for  this  version.

This is one  of  the  beast  shrimp   coconut  curry  out  there  !

Konju Theeyal - Kerala Style Shrimp Curry with roasted coconut and spices .

Prawns Theeyal

By Syama
Prawns  cooked in a  mix  of  spices  and  roasted  coconut.
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine India
Servings 4


  • 500 g or 1 lb Prawns Shelled and Cleaned
  • 1 C Cubed Vegetables Optional - See Notes
  • 1 Small Piece Dry Tamarind / Tamarind Paste See Notes
  • 1 C Onion/Shallots Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Green Chili To Taste (Optional )
  • 3 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1/2 Inch Ginger Minced
  • Water As Needed

To Grind

  • 2 C Fresh Grated Coconut or 3/4 C Dry
  • 1 Tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Chili Powder To Taste
  • 1/8 Tsp Turmeric One Generous Pinch

To Season

  • 2 Tbsp Oil Preferably Coconut
  • 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Stalk Curry Leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds Optional
  • Salt To Taste


  • If  using  dry tamarind  soak in  1/2 C  warm water  and  set  aside. 
    Heat a pan and dry roast the grated coconut for around 6-8 minutes over  medium  fire stirring  frequently. As  the  coconut  gets  drier  increase  the  frequency of  stirring and  reduce  the  heat  to  low.  You  could a dd  about 1/2 of  the  onions, ginger  and  garlic  to roast as well. 
    When it turns brown add chilly powder, and coriander powder  and  a  pinch of  turmeric. Turn off  the  heat  and  set  aside  to  cool.  
    When  cooled   grind  this   mix  into a  smooth paste  using  as  little  water as  possible. (See Notes) 
  • Heat a  pan and add 2 Tbsp of oil.
    Once  the oil  gets  hot  add   the  mustard  seeds, fenugreek seeds    and  curry leaves.  Once  the  seeds  splutter  add  the sliced onions/shallots,  ginger, garlic,  and  green chilies.  Saute   till  the  onions  become  soft. 
    Mash the  softened  tamarind  and  squeeze  the pulp into the  water.
    If  using  vegetables  add  them  to the  pan   with 1/2 C  water. Cover    and  cook for 5  minutes or until the  vegetables  are almost  cooked  through.
    Add the  cleaned  prawns to the pan  and  pour  half  the tamarind  water  (or 1/2 tsp tamarind paste and   a little  water) over it  and  add 1/2 tsp salt.  Cover  with  the  lid  and  cook for  3  minutes over  medium heat  until the  prawns  are  half  cooked. 
    Add the  coconut paste  and mix.   Add  enough  water  to the  curry  for  desired   thickness.  Bring it  back to a slow simmer.   If  needed  simmer the  curry for a  few  minutes  to cook the  prawns  completely.  Taste and  adjust  salt  and  tamarind.   Turn off  the heat. 
  • Rest  the  curry for  10 minutes before   serving. 


  • A variety of  vegetables  can be  added  to this  curry - cubed  potatoes, plantains, bread fruit  and 2 to 3 inch  pieces  of drumstick  are   the most popular  ones. 
  • While roasting  coconut   you can  also add  half  the  onions  ginger  and  garlic  for a  thicker  gravy. 
  • When  coconut  is  roasted and  ground  without adding   any  water  the  oils  release  form  coconut  and  you end  up with a  creamy  smooth  paste. 
  •  A coffee grinder  is a  good  gadget  to  grind  coconut   as  well. 
  • When  using  tamarind paste   there is  no  need  to  dissolve in  water - add  to your  taste. 

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

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Konju Theeyal - Kerala Style Shrimp Curry with roasted coconut and spices
Looking  for  another  spicy seafood curry  from  Kerala. Try thisMathi Mulakittathu - Spicy Sardine CurryMathi Mulakittathu – Spicy  Sardine Curry

Check out  more  Kerala  recipes  here

Recipe Rating


Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

Wow, glad I found this. My aunt who is from Kerala used to make this curry. Her version had tomatoes and drumstick in it as well. Thank you for sharing !


Wednesday 4th of April 2018

Thank you, Sheena ! Hope you try it !