I am big enthusiast of Chingri Malaikari aka Prawn Curry in coconut milk, and who is not in Bengal? This majestic dish appears in all the special occasions, be it wedding ceremony, birthday, simple Bengali party… Bengali loves prawn to death.
In West Bengal, the morning in a nearby bazaar starts with lots of noises and freshly picked vegetables and fish from different corner of the state. We love to get our fish fresh everyday and cook and consumed them too at the same day. Using day old prawn was not an option in my household. Due to the high price in those days to buy large tiger prawn, we were rarely blessed with this tasty creature. But it always brings heavenly smell of coconut milk, mustard oil and prawn into my senses whenever I remember Sunday lunch with my family. Smoking hot white Rice with Dal (lentil soup), Begun bhaja(fried eggplant), Shukto (another Bengali delicacy), Potol er dalna( Pointed gourd curry) and Prawn Malaikari on hot summer days cooked lovingly by Mom was most enjoyable meal in my life.
I tried my mother’s Chingri Malaikari in USA with limited success because of the prawn I get here mostly. I use raw, deveined, shell removed, frozen middle sized prawn which is no match for Galda/ Bagda Chingri aka fresh tiger prawn from rivers& sea banks of Bengal . Though I can’t complain about the canned coconut milk we get here. It would take half of my day to grate the coconut, extract the milk from it and then use for this recipe. For authentic flavor I would recommend using fresh prawn with head & tail intact and coconut milk extracted from the coconut.
Prawn – 1 lb raw, de-veined, medium-large size
Bay leaves/ Tejpata – 2
Red chilli pepper – 2 whole
Garam Masala for tempering – ½ teaspoon (coarsely grounded cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper)
Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder – 1 teaspoon
Salt & sugar as per taste
Onion – 1 medium (chopped finely)
Garlic – 1 teaspoon finely chopped
Green chillies – 4/5 slit lengthwise
Poppy seeds paste – 2 table spoon (make the paste with little water)
Mustard paste – 1 ½ table spoon( Make the paste with salt & green chilli to get rid of its bitter taste, if still tastes bitter use a small sieve to strain the liquid)
Coconut milk – 2 table spoon
Yogurt – 1 tablespoon
Mustard oil – 2 tablespoon (this is highly recommended as the taste will totally change without mustard oil, but in case you don’t have access to mustard oil use vegetable oil)
If you are using freshly caught whole prawn then de-vein and wash thoroughly. I have used raw prewashed and deveined medium size prawn for this dish. Feel free to use whatever is available or favorite for you. For me I still like the fresh Galda chingri(type of prawn in Bengal) bought from farmer’s market/ bazaar, still moving their claws.
Marinade the prawn with pinch of turmeric, salt and sugar. Sometimes I add little amount of lime juice.
Heat oil in kadai/ deep frying pan and add whole red chillies, bay leaves and lightly grounded garam masala. Add chopped garlic. When the garlic starts to change its color to golden brown add chopped onion. Add turmeric and red chilli powder.
When the onion starts to get translucent add marinade prawn to the heat. Prawn is very sensitive ingredient and overdoing it leads to gummy like taste. So when it turns to orange yellowish color add poppy seeds & mustard paste.
The prawn gets cooked within 5 mins and turn to orange yellowish color.
Add salt and sugar to the curry and coconut milk. If needed add little amount of water. This recipe is neither very dry nor soupy consistency. Cook for 5 more mins. Beat the yogurt and add to the curry.
For rustic flavor add green chillies at the end which gives a nice aroma. Enjoy with white rice preferably Basmati rice.