Chingri Malaikari or Coconut Prawn Curry, is a very famous and popular Bengali main course served with white Rice or Plain Pulao for lunch or dinner on special occasions or if you are like me for no rhyme or reason. I read it somewhere on a restaurant menu in which it was described as a ”Royal Bengali Classic”. It indeed is!
Chingri Malaikari is a dish cooked in a spicy gravy where the key ingredient is coconut milk. Traditionally, in Bengali households, it is cooked with fresh coconut milk extracted from grated coconut. Here in London, life is not so easy to get hold of fresh coconuts and go through the extensive process of extracting milk from it, rather we cheat and pick a can of coconut milk off the shelf of our grocery store.
Ingredients I Used:
Prawns 1 kg (the bigger in size, the better it is), get fresh ones
5 tablespoon Onion paste
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2/3 Green Chillies
1 can Coconut Milk (200 ml)
3/4 Bay Leaves (if used small, if used big ones, 2 is enough)
1 Cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala powder
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
Tips to use the prawns:
- I prefer keeping the hard shell and the tail. Traditionally, for this preparation, it is recommended to leave them on as the shell really consumes all the flavours from the spices and it tastes scrumptious. But if you must, you may remove.
- De-vein the prawn, slit the back a little and take out the vein that resembles a black thread.
- For prawns with heads, carefully remove only the front portion of the head, the eyes etc., do not remove the entire head, you want to keep the liquid (it’s delicious!) inside the head.
Lets cook now
Step one: Clean the prawns as explained earlier and mix it with turmeric and salt and keep aside for about 5-10 minutes.
Step two: Meanwhile grind the onion and tomato (separately) to paste.
Step three: Heat oil in a pan and lightly fry the prawns so they turn red-golden-ish in color, do not deep fry like other fish.
Step four: As soon as the prawns turn a pale golden take them out and keep aside.
Step five: In the same oil, add the dry spices and give it a minute to pop.
Step six: As soon as the spices start crackling, add the onion paste. Continue frying the onion with a little bit of sugar till it turns brown in color or the oil separates from the paste.
Step seven: Add the ginger-garlic paste and all the spices. Let it simmer for a 2-3 minutes..
Step eight: Stir and add the tomato paste. Cook for 3-4 minutes until oil separates.
Step nine: Add the can of coconut milk or if you are using fresh coconut milk. Add a little water (about 1/3 of the can) in the can, mix well and add it too.
Step ten: Add the green chillies.Mix well and cook the gravy. The gravy tastes best when you simmer it in a low heat for about 20-25 minutes.
Step eleven: When you see the oil surfacing on the gravy add the fried prawns. Cook on low for some more time till the gravy thickens and acquires a creamy consistency.
Serve with white Rice or plain Pulao.
So, why wait, try out this dish over the weekend, you will find a dinner of white Basmati Rice & Chingri Malaikari is nothing but a ‘nostalgic experience with a side of warm spices’ as my friend Lopa coined it. It’s truly a nostalgia for me as I try to cook this classic Bengali dish exactly how my Maa (mother) would cook at home.