Crisp Koli Masala Prawns

A few months ago, when I first met an old blogger friend, Anjali Koli for the first time, she showered me with treats–some homemade peanut fudge, a beautiful handmade card, and a traditional spice blend typical to her hometown–a koli masala. I used the masala sparingly (partly because it was fiery and partly because I didn’t want it to get over too soon) in various ways–I tossed vegetables in it, made coconut-based curries with it, and added it to my breads.

Anjali's card and Koli Masala

But what really does justice to this masala is seafood. Kolis are fisherfolk, and it is evident that they know exactly what goes best with the best catch on the west coast of India. I loved this recipe for semolina crusted spicy Koli Masala prawns. Crisp, fiery and absolutely delightful, these make an excellent side to simple daal and rice or a fancy cocktail snack. Just be sure to pair it with something cooling–like a lassi or a lemon spritzer to wash it down.

Anjali now retails the this fabulous Koli Masala in a sincere bid to preserve the traditions of her community. I truly admire her determination and sense of respect for her roots. All my best wishes to you, Anjali!

Koli masala prawns

Note: If you don’t have access to Anjali’s masala, look for it in your local market or replace as indicated below (but it won’t be the same)! I also tossed the prawns around in a hot wok but I must admit that flash frying them in a larger quantity of oil makes them absolutely delectable.

Crisp Koli Masala Prawns


  • 2 cups medium-sized fresh prawns (you could use frozen but fresh are best); peeled and deveined with tails on
  • 2 tbsp. Koli masala (or grind together 1 and 1/2 tbsp. hot red chili powder, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 3/4 tbsp. ground coriander powder, 2 cloves, 5 peppercorns, one small bay leaf and a pinch of salt)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 4 tbsp. semolina
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok on high heat. Tip in the prawns and stir fry until cooked and crisp on the outside. Alternatively, deep fry for a few scant moments in half a liter of oil, in batches.
  3. Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro and wedges of lemon.

Crisp Koli Masala Prawns

Comments (5)

  1. Anjali August 19, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Saee those pictures are pure poetry and Prawns are a ideal pairing for the masala. For a more gossamer coat one could use a light dusting of rice flour, among Kolis rice flour is the preference. Thank you for this post and kind words.

    • admin August 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

      True, Anjali. I use a mix of rice flour and semolina–semolina for the crispness and the rice flour to keep everything together. In this instance, however, I found that the semolina really shows off the tender prawns inside without burning their outsides. Must come and see how it is traditionally done. 🙂

  2. Remya August 20, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Soo yummy…I love prawns and this recipe gives a new way of making prawns . Thanx for sharing 🙂

  3. acbistro July 14, 2014 at 2:19 am

    hello Saee…..You have a wonderful blog 🙂 tried your Koli style masala prawns and it came out absolutely finger -licking good 😀
    As i am a new blogger, groping my way around various apps, did not know how to link your blog in the post. Learnt the trick and rectified my post.
    Thank you for the lovely recipe.

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