King Prawn Pathia | Sweet, Sour and Completely Delicious

Ever wanted to try a curry that’s just a little bit different? Well, today, you are in for a treat! King Prawn Pathia combines loads of amazing flavours; meaty and juicy prawns, a touch of Indian spice and a fair hint of sweetness. The best thing is that it is no more difficult to make than any other curry. I’m going to show you how Indian takeaways make pathia, and you can create it at home.

What is Pathia?

Pathia is a blending of flavours and cultures. While it is a curry (obviously), it isn’t exclusively what you would call ‘Indian’. It is thought that pathia is a curry that originated not in India but in Persia.

Along with many other restaurant favourites, it was adopted by the curry houses of the UK.

While pathia is savoury, it is also sweet. If I had to give it a flavour profile, I’d say that pathia is hot, sweet and sour. You can tone the hotness down if you wish by using less chilli in the recipe.

The sweetness traditionally comes from jaggery, which is a form of unrefined, unprocessed sugar. You’ll find many restaurants use different ingredients to add sweetness. Some use sugar, some use mango, and some use pineapple juice!

The dish was traditionally given its sourness with the use of tamarind… Yeah, good luck finding that in a curry house in the ’70s and ’80s! You’ll find that you can recreate a similar taste with lime juice! It also includes other sour elements, such as vinegar.

Is King Prawn Pathia Spicy?

bowl of indian curry

This is all down to personal taste. As you’ll probably know, ‘spicy’ is a very subjective term. If you are used to a hot curry like a Madras, chances are you won’t find our king prawn pathia recipe too spicy.

Traditionally, pathia is supposed to be just a little hot. On a curry scale, most people would probably describe it as ‘medium’.

In my recipe, you’ll see that I include just a little Kashmiri chilli powder. This tends to be a little hotter than regular chilli powder.

What is the Difference Between Pathia and Dhansak?

The two actually have a very similar flavour profile. Both are hot, sweet and slightly sour. However, the main difference with a dhansak is that it is made with lentils. These are stewed down and thicken the sauce slightly.

Did you want a Dhansak instead? No problem. You’ll find the recipe just here!

How to Make King Prawn Pathia (BIR Style)

Ok, so full disclosure. This is slightly more involved than a few of my other recipes.

But trust me, this is well worth it!

You’ll find that many Indian recipes use spiced oil. This is all good and well if you’ve cooked about 100 onion bhajis the night before, but for most of us, this isn’t possible.

There’s an easier way, and that is to flavour your oil just before you cook. I do this by using a few cumin seeds and also some chopped up onions.

After that, I add my curry spices to make a masala. These toast a little and release their flavours into the oil.

Now, if you were using chicken or another meat in your pathia, this would be the time to add it. But…

And it’s a big but…

With king prawns, you’ve got to do it slightly differently… Here’s why.

king prawns

When you overcook prawns, they tend to shrink and turn rubbery. Add them too early, and you’ll end up with tiny little prawns. For this reason, I add them toward the end of the cooking process. In fact, it’s one of the last things I do.

So you’ve flavoured your oil, toasted the spices. Now it’s time to go in with your tomato puree. If you don’t know how to use tomato puree in BIR curry, now’s the time to learn. I’ve got an article focusing on it just here.

Once the tomato has cooked down, we add base gravy and our flavouring elements (sugar, mango chutney, and lime juice). We let these bubble away, and only then do we add our prawns and another helping of base gravy.

Why lime juice and not tamarind?

Listen, I am trying to make this an easy king prawn pathia recipe. ‘Easy’ in my book doesn’t involve trying to find tamarind. It’s not often used, so it doesn’t make sense to buy pots of it. The taste is hardly any different. If you’ve got tamarind, feel free to use that instead, but I’m sticking with lime juice… Hello pathia, goodbye scurvy!

We finish the dish off with chopped coriander, and that’s it!

Restaurant Style King Prawn Pathia Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

King Prawn Pathia | Ingredients

Spice Mix

  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon mix powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the Pathia curry sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic and ginger paste
  • 5 tablespoons diluted tomato puree
  • 2 cups hot base gravy
  • 400g king prawns (raw)
  • 2 teaspoons mango chutney
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of methi leaves
  • A bunch of freshly chopped coriander


  1. Put your base gravy on medium heat and get it up to a rolling simmer
  2. In a large frying pan, add the oil and heat over high. Once the oil is shimmering, add your cumin seeds. When they sizzle and darken, throw in your sliced onion and stir and fry until they begin to darken.
  3. Add your ginger garlic paste and stir fry for around a minute. Watch out for it spitting!
  4. From there, go in with your spice mix. It will coat the pan, soak up the oil, and form a  dryish paste that will begin to darken. As soon as this happens, pour in your tomato puree. Stir well and incorporate with the spices. It’s cooked when it has bubbled down into a thick dark brown paste.
  5. Add a cup of curry base and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated. Cook your base gravy down until it is really thick.
  6. Throw in the prawns and toss in your reduced curry base. Then, as they turn slightly pink, add another cup of base gravy, along with the mango chutney and lime juice. Add the methi leaves and finish with the chopped coriander before cooking down to your desired consistency.
  7. Enjoy!

Top Tips when Making King Prawn Pathia

Buying fresh tiger prawns can be a real pain. I find the best solution is to buy a few bags of frozen raw king prawns. A couple of hours before you cook the curry, drop them in a bowl of cold water and leave them to defrost… DON’T thaw them in hot water.

Any sour element will work well in this Pathia recipe. If you’ve gone all posh and got real tamarind, go for it. Things I’ve used in the past include lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

The sweet element is also interchangeable. As I said, feel free to try pineapple juice in place of the mango chutney. White sugar works just as well as brown sugar. You could even try sweetener if you are really stuck!

The chilli is optional, so if you want to make a mild pathia recipe, please leave it out entirely.

Experiment with flavouring your oil. I used cumin seeds in this recipe, but you could also try mustard seeds, powdered cumin or maybe even a couple of cloves!

If you haven’t made garlic and ginger paste, you can chop up a clove of garlic and a thumb-size piece of ginger and use it in exactly the same way

Don’t feel limited by the prawns. Chicken Pathia is equally as nice. Prawns cook much quicker than chicken. However, if you go down this route, add the chicken right after adding the onions and cook until it is browned.

Final thoughts

This is exactly how the chef in my old kitchen used to cook a king prawn pathia. I don’t know where they got the prawns from, but they were huge! What’s your favourite curry? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see if I can dig out my old ‘curryspy’ scrapbook and include it in the blog.

Enjoy Making Curry Yourself?

Hey folks, thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it useful, and that you learned something new allowing you to make your curry extra special. Here are a few things that can really elevate your curry game to the next level. 

These are affiliate links, so if you use them I receive a small commission, but this won't cost you any extra. In all honesty, I use very similar items myself, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

A Complete Curry Kit: - Literally, everything you'll need to make curry all in one place. Cookware, storage, utensils, even the spices! This is my dedicated guide to getting you up and running all for the price of few takeaways.

Curry pans: - You need one, and one only. A frying pan exactly like this is really easy to use, and is exactly the type that authentic Indian chefs use to make the type of curry that you'll have in your local takeaway. You can see my full reviews of several pans right here...

Spice Storage: - Being organised is half the battle in making great curry. Spices can be notoriously hard to keep tidy. That's why I tend to use a spice rack like this. You can arrange your spices by size, heat, or any way you choose. I've got a detailed review of several Indian spice racks in this guide.

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