I don’t own a barbecue. I don’t even own one of those fancy stove-top grills. What I do have, however, is my trusty old cast iron skillet. I use it for practically everything—dosas, uttappas, thalipeeths and other members of the crepe and pancake family, eggs, bhakris, quesadillas, and sandwiches. I also use it to smoke finely chopped bell peppers or capsicums for dips and raitas. Given the limited kitchen space I live in and the fabulous results of my skillet, I doubt I will ever go barbecue shopping.
Here is one of my favorite things to do with the skillet—grilled prawns. Actually, anything on a satay stick is fun to grill, don’t you think? These prawn kebabs/tikkas/satay (whatever you choose to call it) are so ridiculously easy to make and so succulent, you’ll find yourself armed with a hot skewer while you’re laying out the second batch on the skillet. I have offered these prawns to several happy guests, who are delighted to get hot, smoky prawn skewers, a la tandoor, in my small balcony-less, terrace-less, garden-less, porch-less flat in suburban Mumbai. Pair these Chinese-inspired grilled prawns with a cool dip or salsa, and all you need is good friends and a chilled beer to face the impossible Mumbai summer.
- 2 cups of medium-sized prawns, shelled and deveined
- 2 tsp. Kashmiri red chili powder (reduce to 1 tsp. if using regular red chili powder)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ inch piece of ginger
- 1 tbsp. vinegar (I used Champagne-style)
- 1 tsp. chili-infused light soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable/peanut/sesame oil to aid grilling
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Place all the ingredients, except the prawns, lemon juice, and oil, in a coffee blender and grind to a paste. Decant into a large mixing bowl.
- Marinate the prawns in this mixture for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, soak the satay sticks in some water. This will make skewering easier.
- Thread three to four prawns on each stick. If you’re using large prawns—like tiger prawns, do one prawn on each stick, head to tail.
- Heat an iron skillet or pan to smoking point. Spray or lightly dot the skillet with oil of choice.
- Place the skewers on the hot grill, and allow a minute to cook on one side before turning. Cook on the second side for half a minute.
- Squeeze on some lemon juice.
- Hand out, smoking hot, to waiting guests (making sure you’ve got one for yourself) or place on a platter and serve with a cool dip/raita/salsa. Although, chances are, no one will have the patience to dip these into anything but their mouths.
Note: These work very well in wraps–use leftover grilled prawns with a dressing (like Thousand Island) and loads of lettuce in soft tortillas or chappatis for a filling snack.