I don’t own a barbecue. I don’t even own one of those fancy stove-top grills. What I do have, however, is my trusty old cast iron skillet. I use it for practically everything—dosas, uttappas, thalipeeths and other members of the crepe and pancake family, eggs, bhakris, quesadillas, and sandwiches. I also use it to smoke finely chopped bell peppers or capsicums for dips and raitas. Given the limited kitchen space I live in and the fabulous results of my skillet, I doubt I will ever go barbecue shopping.

Here is one of my favorite things to do with the skillet—grilled prawns. Actually, anything on a satay stick is fun to grill, don’t you think? These prawn kebabs/tikkas/satay (whatever you choose to call it) are so ridiculously easy to make and so succulent, you’ll find yourself armed with a hot skewer while you’re laying out the second batch on the skillet. I have offered these prawns to several happy guests, who are delighted to get hot, smoky prawn skewers, a la tandoor, in my small balcony-less, terrace-less, garden-less, porch-less flat in suburban Mumbai. Pair these Chinese-inspired grilled prawns with a cool dip or salsa, and all you need is good friends and a chilled beer to face the impossible Mumbai summer. 


  • 2 cups of medium-sized prawns, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tsp. Kashmiri red chili powder (reduce to 1 tsp. if using regular red chili powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar (I used Champagne-style)
  • 1 tsp. chili-infused light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable/peanut/sesame oil to aid grilling
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon


  1. Place all the ingredients, except the prawns, lemon juice, and oil, in a coffee blender and grind to a paste. Decant into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Marinate the prawns in this mixture for about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the satay sticks in some water. This will make skewering easier.
  4. Thread three to four prawns on each stick. If you’re using large prawns—like tiger prawns, do one prawn on each stick, head to tail.
  5. Heat an iron skillet or pan to smoking point. Spray or lightly dot the skillet with oil of choice.
  6. Place the skewers on the hot grill, and allow a minute to cook on one side before turning. Cook on the second side for half a minute.
  7. Squeeze on some lemon juice. 
  8. Hand out, smoking hot, to waiting guests (making sure you’ve got one for yourself) or place on a platter and serve with a cool dip/raita/salsa. Although, chances are, no one will have the patience to dip these into anything but their mouths.

Note: These work very well in wraps–use leftover grilled prawns with a dressing (like Thousand Island) and loads of lettuce in soft tortillas or chappatis for a filling snack.