Prawn Curry (Gulai Udang)

In Malaysia, this prawn curry dish is sometimes prepared with as many as forty small, red-hot chiles, making it one of the hottest dishes in the Spice Islands.  I have toned it down a bit, but it is still quite hot.  In some versions of this gulai, tomatoes and/or tamarind paste are added.  Serve the curry in banana leaves for a dramatic presentation. Discover more spicy goodness in A World of Curries, available here.

reeling in the years

Prawn Curry Ingredients

  • 10 dried small hot red chiles, such as piquins, stems removed
  • 5 candlenuts (or substitute macadamia nuts or cashews)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bulbs included
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 large piece galangal, peeled and chopped (or substitute ginger)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon prawn or shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (recipe here) or vegetable oil
  • 4 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pounds prawns or large shrimp, peeled, heads and tails removed (optional), deveined if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups thick coconut milk, recipe here


  1. In a food processor, combine the chiles, nuts, lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, onion, and prawn paste and puree to a fine paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok and fry the paste and curry leaves for 5 minutes.  Add the prawns and coconut milk and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the prawns are done, about 15 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium to hot