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Home / Brunch / Gourmet Secrets by Karen Anand: A toast to the ghee roast!

Gourmet Secrets by Karen Anand: A toast to the ghee roast!

The word “roast” in ghee roast is deceptive as it has nothing to do with an oven at all

brunch Updated: Aug 17, 2019 22:40 IST
Karen Anand
Karen Anand
Hindustan Times
In prawn ghee roast onions and a mix of dry spices are individually slow roasted
In prawn ghee roast onions and a mix of dry spices are individually slow roasted

In this rainy weather, all I want to eat is something hot and spicy. This is not the weather I hanker for salads and sweets. Ayurveda says this is the time for bacteria and viruses so in terms of diet, its best to avoid uncooked food and salads and eat plenty of cow ghee, warm foods, sour, salty, spicy and even oily dishes.

The popular recipe, ‘chicken ghee roast’ is said to have originated in a small town called Kundapur just outside Mangalore

The word “roast” is very deceptive. It has nothing to do with an oven at all. It has a great deal to do with frying, mainly onions and a mix of dry spices which are individually slow roasted like coffee till the aroma fills the air. This roasted mix is then powdered and fried along with the onions in ghee. Boiled eggs, cooked duck, chicken or prawn is then tossed into the masala and cooked till quite dry. So the “roast” refers to the spices not the protein. I have had ‘roasts’ mainly in the South and in Kerala and Bangalore but never in Mangalore where this dish is said to have originated. In Kerala, they use coconut oil to fry onions and then the spices.  Coconut milk is also added to a roast in Kerala.  In Mangalore, roast is made with ghee and usually chicken.  The popular recipe, ‘chicken ghee roast’ is said to have originated in a small town called Kundapur just outside Mangalore.  The chicken is cut into bite sized pieces and marinated in yoghurt, ginger and dry spices.  The ghee is used to fry garlic and a whole bunch of other spices.  This mixture is cooked with water made into a paste, added to the chicken and the whole lot is cooked together until the masala is quite dry.  In Chettinad, the marinated chicken pieces with bone and skin are fried in ghee first to render the chicken skin crispy.  

Ashwin Shetty with his mother Nanda Shetty
Ashwin Shetty with his mother Nanda Shetty

Wonder of wonders, I tasted a wonderful prawn ghee roast recently at the trendy resto bar, Mr. Rabbits Bar & Burrow in Pune.  I was doing an event around Martini, Jazz and great food and chose ‘Rabbits’ as its popularly called, since I had heard so much about Nanda Shetty’s amazing Mangalorean dishes. Nanda and her two sons own and run the popular restaurant. The place is packed every night with regulars from the Baner area.  It looks like an Indian version of ‘Cheers’.  Although their cocktails are phenomenal and their Asian and European food is also pretty amazing, what people really seem to come here for are Nanda’s South Indian coastal dishes…her Kerala mutton pepper fry, the fried fish and her amazing chicken and prawn ghee roast.  I spoke to the rather shy Nanda who explained that they were on a family holiday in Mangalore and had amazing dishes of prawn and chicken ghee roast at a small restaurant called Anupama.  Of course, nobody would divulge the recipe and so being an accomplished cook herself she set about to discover the secret. After much trial and error, she created this recipe which is a much more simple version of the many “original” I had seen and frankly the best I have ever had. Here is Nanda’s recipe which she cooked right in front of me.

Prawn Ghee Roast


1 kg prawns

1 cup yoghurt

½ tsp turmeric

Pinch of salt


15 byadgi chillies

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1tsp jeera

5 cloves

4-6 tbsp ghee

6– 8 onions diced finely

A handful of fried curry leaves


Marinate the prawns in the yoghurt, salt and turmeric for about half an hour. Dry roast the spices individually and grind to a powder together (this will be your base masala powder). Heat ghee in a pan and fry the diced onions first on a low fire to cook and then on a high flame till they brown. Add the powdered masala and fry for a few seconds. Add the marinated prawns and stir on a high flame till the mixture dries completely and prawns are cooked. Season with salt. Garnish with the fried curry leaves

Author Bio: Culinary expert and explorer Karen Anand has been writing extensively on the subject of food and wine for 30 years. Apart from having her own brand of gourmet food products, she has anchored top rated TV shows, run a successful chain of food stores, founded the hugely successful Farmers Markets, and worked as restaurant consultant for international projects, among other things. Her latest passion is food tours, a totally curated experience which Karen herself accompanies, the first of which was to Italy.

This is a fortnightly column. The next edition will appear on September 1

From HT Brunch, August 18, 2019

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