Prawn Balchao
60 Min

Prawn Balchao

Part pickle, part curry, Prawn balchao is the classic shrimp dish from the tiny state of Goa, India. Here we replace the traditional malt vinegar with a good dark balsamic. Serve it with warm rice or toasted crusty bread.
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Cook Time

60 Minutes



Prawn Prep:
Step 1
Marinate the prawns in turmeric and salt for 2 hours and up to 12 hours and set aside in the refrigerator.
To make the masala:
Step 1
Preheat the oven to 300F. Toast the whole red chiles along with the cinnamon, green cardamom, peppercorns, and cumin seeds on a baking pan for 5 to 6 minutes. Let the spices cool. Grind in a spice grinder.
To make the balchao:
Step 1
Over high heat, warm the oil in a wide saucepan and fry the kari leaves – immediately add the onions and cook them until translucent, stirring frequently. Keep the heat at medium to low to ensure the onions are not burning. Then add minced garlic, ginger, salt and the ground masala and fry it for a minute or two.
Step 2
Next add the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have cooked down and the masala has thickened, 5 minutes. Add a cup of water, raise the heat to high and bring the entire mixture to a boil.
Step 3
Lower the heat and simmer the masala for about 5 to 10 minutes or until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. This allows the spices and seasonings to come together and meld into more of a smooth flavor. The oil will rise to the top at this point.
Final steps:
Step 1
Slide the prawns and balsamic vinegar in and simmer until the prawns are done, usually no more than 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let the curry rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 2
Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

2 pounds prawns, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup coconut oil

15 to 20 kari leaves

1 cup minced onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons ginger purée

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups minced fresh tomatoes or 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup chopped cilantro for garnish


15 whole red chiles (such as arbol)

2-inch cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon green cardamom pods

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Notes & Variations

  • This recipe can be made with chicken or lamb – adjust the cooking time. It can also be made plant based by using vegetables like roasted cauliflower, roasted mushrooms, potatoes, peppers, or squash.
  • The coconut oil can be replaced with ghee, olive oil, or sesame oil.
  • The curry tastes best 6 to 8 hours after it is prepared, after the flavors have had time to mellow out.
60 Min

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