Prawn and potato thokku

I've been living in Chennai for the last 17 years. Off and on, I've had maids who claim that they know how to cook. So, naturally, I ask them to cook something to see if it is really worth taking things forward. After all, a little extra help in the kitchen on a busy day is always welcome.

Invariably, the conversation goes like this:

Me: What dishes can you cook?
Maid: Oh I can cook everything!! Mutton, chicken, fish, vegetable...
Me: Can you cook something for me now?
Maid: Oh yes, what do you want me to cook?
Me: We'll try some chicken. What do you need to cook it?
Maid: Chicken, onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, chilli powder, turmeric powder...

What is uncanny is that all these maid-cum-cooks make this basic dish called thokku. So whether they are cooking chicken, prawn, potato or egg curry, the most of the ingredients are the same and the method of cooking is always the same.

I was intrigued by thokku. My mother in law had given me a recipe for tomato thokku which needs onions, tomatoes and green chillies. After cooking, it turns into a thick chutney and is very nice as a topping for bread. Then there is a mango pickle made into a thokku where grated mango is cooked into a thick pulp with tamarind, chilli powder and salt. Spicy and tangy.

But chicken thokku.  And prawn thokku?
Ah well, I had so much to learn. And I did!!

After 17 years of learning from these ladies, I figure a thokku is one of the easiest of dishes to prepare. Also one of the fastest.
I add potatoes in my thokku because it makes the gravy thick. This thokku goes well with rice and all kinds of flatbreads.

So we start with the ingredients:

From top left: chopped tomatoes, diced potatoes, chopped onions, garlic paste, ginger paste, shelled prawns, chilli powder, turmeric powder, fennel  seed powder, salt, oil and coriander leaves to garnish

Saute chopped onions in a little oil till slightly golden around the edges.

Add the grated ginger and garlic, stir till the raw smell goes then add the chilli, turmeric and fennel seed powders. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, saute till they turn mushy and oil starts separating.

Add diced potatoes, a little water, cover and cook till almost done. 

Add in the prawns, cover and cook till done and very thick gravy remains.

Garnish the prawn and potato thokku with coriander leaves.

Prawn and potato thokku

500 gm shelled and deveined prawns
2 onions, diced
1 tsp each grated ginger and garlic
1 teaspoon chilli powder (more if you like it hotter)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/3 tsp fennel seed powder
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
Salt to taste
4 tbsp oil
1/2 cup water

Heat oil in a pan, saute onions till they turn slightly golden around the edges.
Add in the grated ginger and garlic, saute till it no longer smells raw.
Add in the chilli, turmeric and fennel seed powders, saute till cooked but take care not to burn them.
Add the chopped tomatoes, stir them around till they turn mushy.
Add the diced potatoes along with the water and salt, mix well then cover and cook till the potatoes are almost cooked and very little water remains in the pan.
Add the prawns. Stir well, then cover and cook on a high flame for 5 minutes.
Lower the heat and cook till prawns and potatoes are done. Check seasoning and dish out onto a serving plate.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.


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