Keerai Eral: Amaranth Leaves Cooked With Prawns
Image Credit: Amaranth Leaves Cooked with Prawns

Amaranth or chaulai, as its commonly known in India, formed a key part of my diet growing up. Apart from having multiple health benefits and nutrient-dense properties, what made eating it an enjoyable experience was the many variations it was cooked in. The leaves are typically cooked in preparations like thorans, pakoras and sabzis. Hailing from a mish-mash of all kinds of South Indian subcultures as a child, I was exposed to amaranth cooked in lentil-based curries like kootu or masial (literally translating as mashed), or featured in a preparation cooked with plenty of tomatoes and prawns.

Found growing mainly in the foothills of the Himalayas or along the coastline in the South, the seasonal green is also considered good for the heart and rich in fibre. This family preparation of chaulai, from what I remember, combined basic kitchen staples like onions, spices and aromatics along with fresh sea prawns, and was typically eaten with a steaming pile of ghee rice. On days when the carbohydrate monotony had to be broken, dosas hot off the pan was served with the keerai eral, which translates as leafy greens with prawns. While the seafood, of course, made up for the Mangalorean influence in the recipe, elements like curry leaves and coconut oil make it quintessentially familiar Iyengar flavours. Unlike most South Indian recipes that liberally use coconut, this dish retains its robust richness without it.

Here's a recipe to make two servings:


1 big bunch (350-400 grams) of red or green amaranth leaves

250 grams prawns

Three medium-sized tomatoes, grated

1 large onion, chopped finely

5-6 garlic cloves

1 small piece of ginger

8-10 curry leaves

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

2-3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 red chillies broken

Salt to taste


Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan and add the red chillies. Once they begin to crackle, add the mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter. Throw in chopped ginger and garlic and cook until the aroma of the garlic is released. Add chopped onions to the pan and sauté until they begin to turn translucent in colour. Add the curry leaves and turmeric powder to your pan at this point and mix well.

Season the mixture lightly with salt and throw in the grated tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and allow the flavours to combine and the mixture to condense and release fat. In a separate pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and fry the prawns on both sides for a minute.

Once the tomato mixture has cooked down considerably, add in the chaulai leaves and mix thoroughly. Add a quarter cup of water if the mixture is too dry and season accordingly. Once the leaves begin to wilt and thicken in the pan, which should take about 5-7 minutes, add in the cooked prawns. Check for seasoning and serve with hot rice and ghee.