It has been ages since we had prawns in a curry so last week I went and got prawns from Asia Market-a large Asian food shop in Dublin. I am a Bengali and do have an association with prawns.
My mother’s family came from East Bengal and what is now Bangladesh. The food of the East Bengalis versus the West Bengalis is considered richer and better–well, that is what my mother riled my father, a West Bengali, about. They both, however, were born and brought up in Allahabad, in North India. They spoke fluent Hindustani (a cultured mix of Hindi and Urdu), Purabia- a beautiful dialect of the Allahabad region, English and Bengali. In retrospect, we grew up amidst all of the cultures associated with these languages. As far as food goes, breakfasts and dinners were either something regional from India or European- but lunch ! lunch was almost always very Bengali. Perhaps because some of the finest Bengali dishes are eaten not at dinner but lunch.
My mother would take us on holidays to Calcutta,in Bengal(a state in Eastern India) to visit her two sisters and sister-in-law(read a bit about my beautiful mother by clicking here)who had settled there. When we returned in the green cabins of the Bombay-Howrah mail , under one of the berths would be a large basket of fresh, big prawns(called golda chingri) wrapped in ice and layers of burlap. Prawns were not available to us poor North Indian Bengalis who lived in Allahabad. So Ma would ensure that we had some on our return and that we continued to savour the taste of Bengal at least for two meals-with rationed portions of precious prawn!
And what do self respecting Bengalis cook when they buy prawns? They cook Malai curry! In fact, if there is anything that can make a Bengali ecstatic-it is the thought of food-in particular prawn and more in particular- Prawn Malai Curry. As in my previous recipes-this, too, includes, coconut milk.
Here it is:
You have them below in an arrangement–I enjoy making these arrangements-
Uncooked prawns 500 gm (Bengalis insist on ‘Golda’prawns which you clean and use head-on. The heads add to the fantastic,rich flavours AND you eat it-it is divine) but Tiger prawns or any others will do, I used headless, uncooked Tiger prawns. Uncooked ones, as you probably know, are grey-ish in colour, When cooked they turn a beautiful salmon pink.
1 large onion(grated), 1 heaped tablespoon ginger(ground to a paste–if that is a problem just grate it finely),2 tbsp yogurt,1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste, a pinch of turmeric powder, 1 stick cinnamon(1 inch),2 pods green cardamom, 1 pod black cardamom,2 bay leaves,4 cloves, 1 tin coconut milk(450 ml)-but if you can grate and extract the milk of 1 fresh coconut-the taste and texture will be far better, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp chilli powder(more or less or none)3 tbsp sunflower oil
Remove the shell from the body but leave the tail intact (and the head if you are using- whole prawns have to be cleaned carefully).Wash in cold water.
Heat oil in a kadhai(or heavy bottomed wok or pan),when nearly smoking,remove from heat(so the spices don’t burn) and add the cinnamon,cardamom pods,cloves and bay leaf. Put back on heat and stir for a few seconds. Then add the grated onion.Keep stirring and frying till pinkish in colour-
Add ginger paste. Continue to stir and fry till pale brown (look at the colour below- in Indian cooking -the subtle differences in flavour between one curry and another are not just because of the combination of spices used but also when each is added and to what extent it is fried). Add chilli powder,if using. Stir.
Add the yogurt and tomato paste ( I did not add it for the picture below-I fried and added it in the end but do add it at this stage). Cook till the yogurt dries up. Add coconut milk and boil for about 6 minutes.
Add the prawns and cover and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes till done. We like the prawns cooked till they lose their crunchiness and become fully cooked through and firm (prawns become a little rubbery when cooked for long but it is alright–personally I think they develop full flavour and taste better). You can, of course, cook them to the level of done-ness you like. Here it is bubbling away-
By this time the juices of the prawns and spices and coconut milk have really fused into one another and into the meat. Dish it up and serve with plain boiled rice. I have also served it as a soup (you have to increase the amount of coconut milk according to how many cups of soup you want-but you will have to increase the spices accordingly)with a small amount of boiled rice added in and of course, the prawns piled on.
So as a soup or as a main course- it is absolutely delicious ! The juices of the prawn blend in with the coconut milk and the spices to give it great depth of flavour. Do try it out !
Thank you for coming by. See you soon-next week !