The Seychelles is definitely one of the most beautiful places on earth. Located in the Indian Ocean of the east of East Africa, this archipelago of 115 islands entices you with its pristine white sand beaches, clear blue waters, tropical rainforests and rich marine life. If you aren’t likely to visit soon, you can at least enjoy some of the famous Seychellois Creole cuisine by experimenting with the curry recipe below. And don’t worry: if you’re a vegetarian, there is also a banana-based adaptation of this Creole prawn curry.
The Seychelles has always had a beguiling draw for us, as is it a part of the larger family mythology. My husband’s great grandfather, Kanji Moorarji, was a world-traveled trader and forward-thinking businessman in the early 1900s. He had established close links with Indian families on the islands, first colonized by the French and then the British, to secure copra for his coconut oil business. Around 1910, one of his close friends who visited him often in India, Seth Jeevan Jetha, suggested that Kanji Moorarji buy his own island in the Seychelles, as he was buying so much copra. But alas, the wise man chose otherwise, much to the disappointment of his great grand daughter-in-law and great-great grandchildren!
The story of the island-that-never-was, and the beaches, finally made us visit, not once, but twice in the last year. On this visit, one rainy afternoon when sunbathing was off limits, I indulged in a cooking class with Chef Daniel Louis at the Four Seasons Resort on the island of Mahe. While chatting with him, I learned that about 70% of Seychelles cuisine is based on Indian cooking, but the flavours are quite different. I noticed the browning of onions and garlic, for example, is much less in the Creole curries. Also, the use of a very distinctive curry powder gives the curries a unique aroma and taste. Finally, the French influence has led to the use of parsley and thyme, infusing a distinguishing culinary twist to the combination of spices and coconut milk.
Below is Chef Daniel’s recipe, with some small adaptations and changes.
Creole Prawn Curry
250g ,about 15 pieces large prawns, cleaned and deveined (without shell)
½ small eggplant, peeled and diced about 80g
1 small onion (about 2” diameter) , finely chopped
I tomato tomato, finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8-10 curry leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons corn, safflower or other non-flavoured vegetable oil
½ cup water
1½ cups coconut milk
1 tsp lime juice
2 tablespoons parsley
- Apply ½ teaspoon salt and turmeric to cleaned prawns and allow to marinate while preparing other ingredients.
- Grind ginger and garlic in a chopper/grinder to make a coarse paste.
- Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add onion, curry leaves and cinnamon stick, and stir for a minute, until onions soften and turn translucent.
- Add tomatoes and garlic and ginger paste, and cook until soft about 2 minutes.
- Add eggplant, curry powder, black pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Add ½ cup water and allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes until eggplant is soft.
- Add prawns to pan and sauté until they cook through and change colour (about 4-6 minutes).
- Add the coconut milk and lower heat to simmer. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes curry has thickened.
- Add lime juice, stir. Garnish with parsley and serve with hot steamed rice or Creole Rice.
Critical Ingredients: A good quality curry powder is essential to the recipe. Make sure it hasn’t been lying in your pantry for too long, as it may be bitter. If you don’t have eggplant, you can also use carrots. Curry leaves give essential flavour, but your curry will still taste great if you can’t find any. The parsley can be substituted by thyme.
If you would like to make a vegetarian version of this dish, try my Creole Banana and Eggplant Curry recipe!