Tamilians include commonly available vegetables in non-vegetarian preparations to extend the dish and to add vitamins, minerals, and fibre to the diet. Prawns lend themselves to a variety of such combinations. Snake gourd (pudalankai) is a native vegetable easily grown in kitchen gardens and is mostly used in fries (poriyal) and dhal curry (kootu). With the highly priced prawn, the dish is elevated to a higher status, providing a most delicate and delicious combination of flavours.
The traditionally cultivated snake gourd is 3-4 feet in length and hangs from a 6-foot trellis and thus the name snake or serpent gourd. I have used the hybrid short variety which is very commonly available but looks more like a cucumber.
- ¼ kg cleaned and deveined Prawns
- 1 full-length or 4 small Snake Gourd (Pudalankai)
- 1 large diced Onion
- 12 small Garlic Cloves
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
- 6 Dry Chillies
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon Powder
- ½ tsp Aniseed Powder
- 1 tsp Masala Powder (Chicken 65 or Tandoori Chicken)
- 3 T Oil
- 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
- Pare and remove the skin and pith of the snake gourd.
- Dice the gourd into small pieces.
- Cut the prawns into two if medium sized. Mix with ½ tsp salt and the chicken 65 or tandoori powder. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet. Fry the prawns, a handful at a time. Drain and set aside.
- After all the prawns have been fried, add the garlic to the same oil and fry till almost brown.
- Add the dry chillies. Immediately add the onions and stir till they are translucent.
- Add the snake gourd, mix well, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add the cinnamon and aniseed powders. Cover and continue to cook till done.
- Add the fried prawns and cook for a few minutes. Adjust salt.
- Add the curry leaves and stir before removing from heat.
Instead of snake gourd, Broad Beans or French Beans could be used. Cook the diced beans in a small amount of salted water as their moisture content is much lower than snake gourd (which stands at 95%).