Sunday, 29 June 2014

Chingrir Malaikari (Tiger prawns in creamy Coconut milk )

We have just returned from the mountains last week. It had been an amazing week in the verdant landscape of Himachal Pradesh. And as usual we went to all the unconventional, rarely preferred by the usual tourist  spots to getaway from the humdrum and enjoy 5 days of complete unwinding. We are still sorting out the photos hence the detailed travelog will be along as soon as the photo sorting is over.

I am still feeling lazy and feel like again packing my stuffs again and head for the hills never to return again. Getting lost in the unexplored forest paths of Kasol was much better than cooking, cleaning and attending office everyday. Sigh! Too much of a good thing never lasts for long.

I had emptied my refrigerator before leaving for the vacation.  So on coming back the first task was to stuff my fridge with the necessary ration to kick start my kitchen. I went to the fish market to get my regular supply of fish. The fish seller usually got small prawns without shells. Fortunately that day I saw she had a bowlful of beautiful Tiger prawns with shells on that looked really fresh. They looked pretty tempting and A also proposed we can make Malaikari with them. So I got 10 of them for my weekend Malaikari.

Now Malaikari is a dish that was not often prepared in our home when I was a kid. Both my parents had shell fish allergy hence I was the only one who would eat prawns. Ma would make simple prawn curry which tasted equally good with the huge prawns which where available during those days. Malaikari is something which I slowly started liking after tasting it in some hotel I believe, I dont remember clearly though. Prawns are such a flavorful fish that it can give a character to any preparation in which it is used. The larger ones are used in the signature dishes while the smaller ones when used in any curry or vegetable dish enhances the taste multifold.

Malaikari falls into the list of Regal items that are usually made during any special occasions like birthdays or weddings. It's a close competitor of Hilsa curry also made in Bengal. Chinri malaikari, Kosha Mangsho and Bhaapa Ilish, forms the troika of the Royal dishes of Bengal. This recipe originated in Bangladesh (though some Ghotis of West Bengal would beg to differ about the origin) and has close resemblance with some of it’s neighboring Thai and Malaysian food, even Sri Lankan if I dare to say so. Interestingly, there is variance in the  traditional recipe made in Bengali homes due to the regional influence of East or West Bengal - everyone adds their own little secret touch to make it a heirloom recipe passed on to the next generation with care.

According to the age old recipe, the curry was cooked with prawns having shells. Its not the prawns that give the main flavor and taste to this curry but the prawn head that does the magic of creating a flavorful and divine melt in the mouth curry. The Malai of the curry refers to the thick coconut milk. You can use any type of big prawn like tiger or jumbo prawns or scampi or lobster for this recipe. The rule is - the bigger the size, the better it is. The juices of the prawn blend in with the coconut milk and the spices to give it great depth of flavor and taste.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes  

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Bengali 
Ingredients:
  • Large Prawns with shell and head - 10
  • Onion - 2 big
  • Shah Jeera (Caraway Seed) - 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger - 1 1/2 inch
  • Garlic - 4-5 pods
  • Ghee - 2 tsp
  • Cinnamon - 2 " stick
  • Cardamom - 3 bruised
  • Cloves - 3-4 bruised
  • Coconut milk - 1 Cup
  •  Dry Red Chilli - 2 broken in half
  • Tej Pata (Bay Leaf ) - 1 big
  • Green Chilli - 2
  • Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt as per taste
  • Sugar as per taste
  • Mustard Oil
Procedure for Coconut Milk
For this recipe I had used Maggi Coconut Powder. I used 2 spoonful of the powder and mixed it in a cup of milk, taking care no lump is formed. You can also use the canned Coconut milk readily available in any supermart. Else if you want to use fresh coconut milk then you can scrape the coconut and add hot water to the scraped coconut. Make a thick paste of the scrapings and strain it to get the coconut milk. However it doesn't make much difference in taste even if you use the market available milk or powder.So it's entirely your take whether you want to indulge into the extra effort of extracting coconut milk from fresh coconut or not.


Procedure
1. Wash for long and de-vein the prawns. Keep the head and tail part intact. Remove the shells from the middle. I had removed the eyes from the head (optional). Marinate with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. 


 2. Heat mustard oil in the skillet . When the oil starts to steam toss in the marinated prawns. Fry till they turn pink for 2-3 minutes. Due to the presence of the head and tail the prawns will curl less.  Overcooking the prawns would make them rubbery hence take care not to cook them for long. Drain the oil and keep the fried prawns aside.



3. Chop the onions and make a paste of onions, garlic and one green chilli. Make a paste of ginger separately. Keep aside.

4.  In the same skillet add some ghee and more mustard oil (if required). When the oil is hot enough add the Shah Jeera, bruised cardamom and clove, cinnamon stick, Bay leaf and dry red chillies.



Shah Jeera greatly accentuates the flavor of the recipe. You can make the curry without a Shah Jeera tempering, but I strongly recommend it. Only thing make sure that you use good quality Shah Jeera for getting the best flavors.


5. When a nice aroma of the dried spice comes add the onion paste and saute till the raw smell of the garlic is gone. Add a pinch of salt to the onion paste, it accelerates the cooking process of onion.

6. Add the ginger paste and fold in. Cook with frequent stirring till the onion releases oil. You can also add a bit of water in between to keep the onion from sticking to the skillet.

7.When the raw smell is gone add the turmeric powder, chilly powder and cumin powder. Mix everything.

8. Add the Coconut milk now. Let the gravy simmer for 3-4 minutes so the gravy gains some body.

9. Now add the fried prawns into the gravy and cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on low flame and not more than that else the prawn will become rubbery and hard. Adjust the salt and sugar level at this stage. The gravy is supposed to be a thick one with a predominant sweet taste. 
10. Add a dash of ghee and garam masala powder and close the lid. Let the gravy sit inside till its time to serve. As the gravy sits the rich aroma of prawns and coconut milk will gradually bring in the soul of the dish together.

Serve it on a bed of steamed rice. I served mine along with a simple peas pulao. The peas pulao tempered with shah jeera as well went wonderfully along with the rich creamy Chingrir malaikari.



Old pic when I had made Malaikari with Prawns without heads




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