In my memory, a Prawn Patia will forever be the dish that made me sick as a dog the first time I ate it, yet it was so good I fell in love with it.
The sickness I chalked down to the prawns, a shellfish very similar in appearance to shrimp, and the possibility that hygiene at the hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Bombay we had eaten at, known for its Patia, may have been short of stellar.
And the love? Well, it was impossible not to adore a coconut curry that's a tango of salty, sweet, tangy and spicy.
I learned how to make a prawn patia just as delicious, and after becoming vegan, I morphed it, effortlessly I think, into a Tofu Patia, where chewy chunks of tofu stand in for the shrimp.
My Tofu Patia recipe has lived on this blog for 12 years now, and so many of you have made it and loved it, so I wanted to bring it back to the top for anyone who's new to the blog, with new photos.
The Parsis-- who migrated to India from Persia more than a thousand years ago because of religious persecution-- are also some of its most interesting and, to some extent, inscrutable residents. The story goes that when they landed in Gujarat, a state in western India, the king there accepted them on the condition that they would not seek converts. They assured the king that they would assimilate into the local culture as a spoonful of sugar in a glass of milk--a promise they lived up to.
Parsis are often described in cliches like tight-knit, wealthy, insular and eccentric, and there's some truth in all of that. But to my mind no one describes the community better than my friend Lyla, a willowy, green-eyed woman with a quick wit and a ready laugh.
At the Bombay newspaper where we worked, Lyla would often regale us with stories of her adventures about the city which, one time, included taking her aging mom and aunt to a strip joint in South Bombay because, she said, she had never been in one but didn't dare to go alone. The next day she related, deadpan, a colorful account of the goings-on, including what the dancers did and her mom's and aunt's reactions.
Parsi cuisine is just as delightful. The settlers borrowed from the flavors of western India, where they settled in, as well as from the flavors of their native Iranian cuisine to come up with unique dishes like koimino patio (prawn patia), dhansaak, a combination of mutton and dal, and akoori, a spicy, scrambled egg preparation.
Prawn Patia sparkles with vibrant flavors. Instead of the prawns I used tofu air-fried with turmeric, cayenne and a touch of Old Bay seasoning for the seafood flavor.
What you'll love about this vegan Tofu Prawn Patia
- It is vibrant with so many flavors--sweet, tangy, salty, spicy and savory. There's something here to tickle every tastebud. The tangy note is added by tomatoes and lemon, the sweetness comes from coconut and jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar), and the spice is added by cayenne and a touch of garam masala.
- It is creamy. I use coconut milk for the curry base which makes it really creamy and smooth. The non-vegan recipe I first learned to cook used coconut shreds which were ground up into a paste, but I so much prefer the version with the coconut milk because it's easier and tastier. There are versions of patia that don't use coconut at all but I really like it in here.
- It is easy. You can air-fry or bake the tofu, which adds a bit of time, but if you'd like to save on that just used storebought baked tofu. The rest of the curry takes barely any time to make.
- Extra firm or super firm tofu. This adds some protein muscle and stands in nicely for the shrimp. If using extra firm be sure to press out any water.
- Red chili peppers. I used Kashmiri red chilies, which add really nice color to the curry and are mildly spicy. But any mildly hot dry chili pepper would work or, alternatively, use red pepper flakes.
- Coconut milk. Use the full-fat version in the can, not the one in a carton.
- Turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander and garam masala. For the spice base.
- Ginger. For more spiciness and depth.
- Onions. These add amazing flavor but they also help thicken the sauce.
- Tomatoes. The tomatoes should go in toward the end of cooking, rather than toward the beginning. That way they will not break down fully but will rather melt into the curry, which is exactly what you want.
- Jaggery. Jaggery, or gur, is an unrefined sugar sold in blocks that you shave bits off and use. In appearance, and in flavor, it is not unlike piloncillo, the Mexican sugar you can easily find at supermarkets here, and piloncillo is a fine substitute in this dish. If you can't find either, use coconut sugar or just plain sugar.
- Old Bay seasoning (optional). Old Bay adds a nice seafood-y flavor to the tofu, but it is entirely optional and you don't have to use it. If you do use it, use no more than a teaspoon before air-frying or baking the tofu.
- Lemon: Lemon finishes off the dish nicely and adds a nice tang along with the tomatoes.
- Cilantro or mint. Either of these herbs adds a nice, complementary finish to the dish.
What to serve with the tofu patia
Jeera Rice or Cumin Rice is really nice with this patia. But plain boiled white or brown rice will do too.
Serve with a fresh salad or a Cucumber Raita on the side.
Vegan Tofu “Prawn” Patia
- 16 oz super firm tofu (or extra firm tofu with water pressed out, cut into ½-inch cubes)
- 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon turmeric (divided)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
- Salt to taste.
- 14 oz coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 dry red chillies
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 large tomatoes (finely diced)
- 1 tablespoon jaggery (can substitute with coconut sugar or regular sugar)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoon cilantro or mint (for garnish)
- Mix the tofu with ¼ teaspoon turmeric, cayenne, Old Bay, if using, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Place in an air fryer basket and air fry at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or bake in 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until firm and chewy.
- Blend the coconut milk, cumin seeds, ginger and red chili peppers into a smooth paste. Set aside.
- Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet or saucepan and add the onions. Saute until they brown at the edges, then add in the ground coriander, ground cumin and remaining turmeric.
- Stir for a minute and then add the coconut milk mixture. Cook on a slow flame about five minutes or until you see tiny pools of the fat from the coconut milk on top.
- Stir in the tofu and ½ cup water. Mix well.
- Add the tomatoes, jaggery and garam masala and stir in.
- Bring to a boil and let the curry simmer for another couple of minutes. You can add a bit more water, around ½ cup, if the sauce is too thick for your liking. Check salt and add more if needed.
- Serve hot.
I like it. And I finally used the IP air fryer which has intimated me fir a while now.
Also loved the idea of mixing the cocoa nut milk with the spices. I never premixed the milk so there were spots of fat which totally turned turned me off. This was in the past not with this recipe. I enjoyed it and will definitely make it again. Thank you Vaishali
Hi Dagmar, that's so awesome to hear! Happy you liked it, and thanks for letting me know!
Thank you for this mouth-watering recipe. I don’t see where the diced onions are added. Please do let me know, thank you! Since peppers and tomatoes don’t agree with me, I’m taking the recipe in a new direction using pineapple that I’m roasting. We’ll see how it goes!
Sheri, thanks so much for pointing out, I must've deleted a sentence accidentally while updating the recipe. I've added it back now, it's in step 3. Hope you try and be sure to let me know if you do! 🙂
I love the pictures within the recipe, instead of in the blog post. Thank you for not making us keep scrolling up to the picture and back down to the recipes. I am grateful that you are always so detailed and thorough.Way to go!! With love!
Hi Fifi, so happy to hear those are useful, and I'll make every effort to continue adding them to future recipes. Thanks so much for the feedback!
This was really delicious. I will make it many times. Nice work!
Thanks for the feedback, Michelle! Glad you tried it. 🙂
Love your blog. I just made this recipe and it tastes awesome!
I have tried your mango cup cake and many other recipes and they never fail. This feedback was long overdue but better late than never 🙂
Mala, so happy you liked this and other recipes, and thanks for your kind words!
I made this recipe yesterday. It was fabulous.
Thanks for the feedback! Happy you liked it. 🙂
Anything with tofu is a big hit in my place. I'm sure we will love this one too Vaishali. Can't wait to try it.
LOL, so she took her agining mom and aunt to the strip club as well eh? Wonder what they had to say :-))
very colorful dish minus the seafood (who would miss that smell, as you said)
ummmmmm looks divine...
Great to hear abt Parsi cuisine. A lovely creation Vaishali.
what a vibrant curry... looks gorgeous.
mmm. this is a delicious dish Vaishali! Looks sooo tempting 🙂
looks perfect...i tried ur dads mutton/mushroom curry..tasted so good..my hubby loved it...thanks for the recipe...
Hi Vaishali, I live in Mumbai now, but I don't think I would have ever known of Patia without this post! Thanks so much for all the info, and it really is grt that you experiment with vegan substitutes. I love this recipe, especially the blend with the coconut milk, and will try this with tofu. Is jaggery added to reduce the bitterness of tofu(if any?), because somehow I feel it would add sweetness to the sweet flavour of coconut milk that has been spiced up and the tangy tomatoes and lemon juice
Hi Shreya, no, the tofu isn't bitter in this dish. The jaggery is an ingredient in the original recipe.
It is always good to know people with different cultures and we get to learn a lot from them. I have met few people from the Parsi community in Hyderabad.They are a close knit community and hard working too.
Love the recipe, I have tofu with me and will try it out soon.
Parsi dishes have such a wonderful blend of flavors. This dish looks delicious, will try. Have a wodnerful weekend Vaishali.
I have not had many Parsi dishes, but have loved everything I tried until now. I like the combination of spices that they use. Though its the same stuff, it makes a huge difference in taste. This one looks delicious and I have everything needed to have a yummy dinner tonight 🙂 Have a lovely weekend.
Hmm sounds yum....looks flavourful ans spicy....
I love anything in coconut milk ... this is such a nice vegan version. 🙂
Wow tofu patia looks mouth watering..i have recently started using tofu and absolutely love it..will try this soon:)
While I am a little familiar with some Parsi dishes, this one is new to me.
This should make a good "curry" for chappathis.
I never tried or tasted Parsi dishes, this Patia looks very colourful and love ur idea of making out seafood dishes as vegan...Keep on rocking Vaishali!
Looks vibrant and healthy. Vaishali, there is a noticeable change in your pictures today, or is it just me? Looks lovelier than it normally is.
I love it Vaishali.Absolutely stunning.I have been wanting to try Parsi recipes,but was not sure how they may taste vegan THANKS for trying it out.It surely inspires me to try Parsi recipes.
Its looking SO good and inviting.. color is really tempting me. I wish to taste it ..
Parsi dish never tasted I imagine the taste with shrimp. Delectable vegan dish!
Parsis food is my favorite. A friend of mine made vegan/vegetarian versions for me often enough for me not to cook them. Now that she has moved far away, I have been searching for good recipes. Yours look really tempting. I will try it this weekend.
i have parsi b-i-l and fits the description too well 😉
Looks mouth watering, V. Can't wait to try it out!!
Looks great ..will try soon..and instead of bookmarking every recipe that you post, Im going to add you to my blogroll 🙂 my first...
Great recipes all !!
It looks very colorful and delicious...love your idea of using tofu for Indian dishes! I have bookmarked this recipe to try it this weekend, thanks Vaishali 🙂