Sri Lankan Prawn/Isso Curry

If you're a seafood lover, you have to try this Sri Lankan prawn curry ("isso hodi") recipe. It's spicy, creamy, and full of flavors. 
Sri Lankan Prawn/Isso Curry pinit
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If you’re a seafood lover, you have to try this Sri Lankan prawn/Isso curry recipe. It’s spicy, creamy, and full of flavors.

Sri Lankan prawn curry or “Isso hodi” is one of my favorite things in the world to eat. I love how versatile the curry is since I can pair it up with anything. You can have it with rice or bread or even with coconut roti. I also make this curry to make the famous Sri Lankan street food, Kottu too. My favorite way to eat this curry is with warm rice and Sri Lankan coconut sambol.

I always like to use prawns with their shells since those shells add a lot of flavor to the broth. As you already know, we Sri Lankans use our hands when we eat. So deshelling is not a problem when you eat with your hands. But you can always remove the shells if you want. Make sure to reduce the cooking time a little bit since prawns can cook a bit faster without their shells. You can use shrimp too since they taste the same. (You know they’re not the same right?)

Since we are not going to cook the prawns longer like we do with meat varieties, it’s important that you develop flavors before you add prawns to the pan/pot to cook. So toasting the spices with oil and cooking down the tomato is very important in this recipe. You need to toast the spices until they’re at the edge of burning to develop really good flavors. If you’re worrying that you might burn the spices then you can always turn off the heat when you add the spices. I got to warn you though, the curry is quite spicy. I’m trying to keep it authentic so I did not reduce the amount of spices I usually add when I write the recipe. So if you know you can’t handle heat, then definitely reduce the amount of chili powder you use. Or you can use some paprika instead.

Also don’t forget to add lemon juice at the end. It adds a whole new freshness to the curry. Also prawns/shrimp and lemon are a match made in heaven. They go really well together. The black pepper also add a really nice peppery flavor to the curry. I sometimes sprinkle some black pepper on top as a garnish too.

You might find the ingredient list for this Sri Lankan prawn/isso curry recipe is a little longer and intimidating. But the steps are really easy. So I really hope you’d give this recipe a try. I promise you that you wouldn’t be disappointed.

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Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 15 mins Total Time 25 mins
Servings: 3


If you're a seafood lover, you have to try this Sri Lankan prawn curry ("isso hodi") recipe. It's spicy, creamy, and full of flavors. 



  1. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan or pot. Add fenugreek seeds, a piece of cinnamon, curry leaves, and pandan leaves to the curry.
  2. When they start to get aromatic, add the garlic and onion and let them cook until onions get translucent.
  3. Spread the onions to the edges/sides of the pan. If you're using a round bottom pan, the oil will drain to the middle. Otherwise add a bit of oil to the middle of the pan/pot.
  4. To the oil in the pan add the chili powder, unroasted curry powder, turmeric powder, and a bit of salt. Lower the heat and toast the spices in the oil for a couple of minutes. Then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Fry them until the spices get dark brown. You can turn off the heat if the pot is heated too much.
  5. Now add your diced tomato and sliced green chili. Cook until it gets really mushy and very liquidy. Press the tomatoes with the back of the spoon to mash them moreover.
  6. Add the cleaned prawns. Mix well with the tomato and onion mixture.
  7. Then add your coconut milk and cook until the prawns are cooked for about 5 minutes. Stir time to time. Don't overcook the prawns since they can get rubbery. Taste and add salt if needed. (if you want less gravy then reduce the amount of coconut milk you add)
  8. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice and black pepper. Mix well.
Keywords: isso, curry, isso curry, prawn, prawn curry, prawns, shrimp, shrimp curry, sri lankan, sri lanka, spicy


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