Monday, 9 June 2014

Kochu Diye Chingri ( Prawns with Taro)

These days I am indulging myself into a lot of Food & Travel shows mainly on Fox Traveller and Food Food. Reason being now a days A is doing a lot of business travelling and I am having the TV all to myself. I am not a lover of Saas-Bahu & Sazish type of soaps and now a days the reality shows have become such a common thing that it has become a drag to watch. With nothing substantial left to watch on the array of cable channels I settled down for Food related shows on Fox Traveller and discovered a new world of travelling and cuisine - my two love.

I had instantly fallen in love with the Peter Kuruvita show exploring Sri Lankan cuisine. The simple travel stories, cooking in the open with beautiful landscapes all around, the usage of earthen pots and pans and the rustic looking traditional fares that he dished out was so awe-inspiring. Instead of fancy dining I always loved anything that was close to our roots. Anything rustic, unpolished, with old world charm has a aura of simplicity which is very emotionally fulfilling for me. I was so charged up with the earthen pot cooking that I started to google where I could get them in India. But then frenzy soon had to die a premature death when I realized that earthen pots could not be used on Induction Oven which was what I used mostly instead of gas burner.

Recently another show I was watching every weekday was David Rocco's Dolce India. A celebrity chef's journey through different cities of India, mingling with local people, exploring signature regional dishes and stirring up scrumptious Italian dishes using Indian ingredients. More than the food he cooks I love the way he presents the show, the way he gels with everything Indian. A very charismatic and humble person exploring India and its cuisine as it should be. Every dish has a story and that's what he tries to explore through his show.

Vikas Khanna's Coastal Curries is another show on Fox Traveller in which he goes exploring the coastal cuisines of western India and reproduce his own version of the traditional fares with some twist.

In all these shows and other cookery shows as well the cookwares used  have always interested me, just like the earthen pots from Peter Kuruvita's show. Recently I was observing that chef's were using some white skillets for frying and sauteing. It wasn't the usual non stick coating skillet. I used to wonder what kind of coating was there on those skillets. The other day as I was browsing through the Kitchen section of Central mall, I saw the same white skillet and was immediately intrigued. The attendant of the section told me that it was a ceramic skillet. He explained that it was better than a conventional non stick pan as the coating would not go away with long usage. Anyway I was in need of a new pan and this looked like a worthy cookware to invest on. I could not wait to try on the new pan so thought of making something traditional and quick to inaugurate it.

I decided my inaugural dish would be Kochu die Chingri (Taro and prawns) - a very traditional fare of Eastern Bengal. Colacasia is a plant grown for its root vegetable, known as Taro or Arbi/Ghuiya in Northern and western part of India and Kochu in Bengal and eastern part of India.

As per Wiki - "Taro /ˈtɑroʊ/ is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the Araceae family. Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated.Colocasia is thought to have originated in the Indo-Malayan region, perhaps in eastern India and Bangladesh, and spread eastward into Southeast Asia, eastern Asia, and the Pacific islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, whence it spread to the Caribbean and Americas.It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable."

 The texture of taro root is almost like potato. Taro roots are very nutritious as they are very high in starch and are a good source of easily digestible dietary fiber. Taro roots are consumed in a number of ways - deep fried, stewed, boiled, made into a paste with spicy seasoning, sun-dried and curried. The tender leaves of Taro can also be made into delicious non veg preparation with Hilsa fish.

Kochu or Taro is a very common vegetable I use frequently for making my fish curries so most of the time its available in my pantry. Kochu is more frequently used in a Bangal kitchen than a Ghoti Kitchen. A is Ghoti and I am Bengal but since I am in-charge of the Kitchen mostly its all Bangal cuisines that are dished out. Well now A has also started linking all the simple and tasty fares from the Bangal kitchen. I remember during my childhood days whenever my mother would cook Kochu, I would tell her in advance that it would be only me who would be removing the skin from the boiled Kochus. It used to be one of my favorite activity in the Kitchen back then; maybe because the skin would come off so easily I enjoyed it so much. She would do all other cooking and keep aside the Kochu, when I would get time from studies I would remove the skin. Till today it continues to be a favorite activity.

 I had 250 gm large prawns and decided to make two dishes out of them - Chingrir Malaikari and Kochu diye Chingri. The first one for lunch and second for dinner. Here's the recipe for Kochu diye Chingri:

Preparation Time: 30 minutes  

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Bengali 
  • Large Prawns - 1 cup
  • Kochu (Taro) - 10
  • Radhuni (Celery Seeds) - 1 tsp
  • Jeera (Cumin) - 1 tsp
  • Roasted Jeera Powder - 1 tsp
  • 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 Roasted Jeera Powder:

Heat a tava or skillet. Add the whole Jeera. Saute till the Jeera is fully roasted and browned. Turn off heat and remove the tava to a cooler surface. Let it cool down fully. Put the roasted jeera in a mortar. Grind it uniformly with a pestle and store in a container. Usually I make this in bulk amount and store it in the fridge and use it for seasoning on jeera based curries. Just a little is enough to give your curries a wonderful aroma of roasted jeera. You can use the same for Jeera chicken as well.


1. Wash and devein the prawns. Marinate with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes.

2. Wash the Kochu with the skin on. Take 3 cups of water in a pressure cooker and put the Kochus into it. Pressure cook for 1 or 2 whistles (as per the quality of the Kochu). Remove the cooker from the heat and let it sit till the pressure within dies down.

3. Remove the skin from the boiled Kochu. The skin comes off very easily. Cut into bite sized pieces and keep aside

4. Heat mustard oil in the skillet (I used the new one). When the oil starts to steam toss in the marinated prawns. Fry till they turn pink and curl for a couple of minutes. Overcooking the prawns would make them rubbery. Drain the oil and keep the fried prawns aside.

5. In the remaining same oil toss in Bay leaf, Jeera, Radhuni and stilted green chillies. Saute till you get the aroma of the spices

6. Add the boiled Kochu to the spices. Add turmeric, salt and sugar as per taste. Fold in all the dry spices with the Kochu. Apply light pressure on the Kochus to slightly mash the edges. This would give the texture to the curry. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

You can add potatoes to the curry as well. Boil and dice the potatoes and add it at this step.
If you want to add green peas to your curry you can do so at this point. Add frozen peas directly or if you have uncooked peas then boil it before hand and add it.

8.  Add 3 cups of warm water. Fold in.

9. Add the fried prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes. Switch off the heat.

10. Sprinkle the roasted Jeera powder over the curry. Keep it covered till you serve.

For a slightly different flavor you can substitute the roasted Jeera powder with chopped fresh coriander leaves. 

You can use any fish in this curry instead of prawns and it would taste equally good. Serve it with seamed rice, a wedge of lemon and julienne of freshly cut onions.

Now about the new skillet. Cooking on the glossy ceramic-type cooking surface was pretty easy and even easier cleaning. The food slid easily in the pan and browned very nicely to the desired amount. No staining of turmeric or oil was another thing very interesting. I am quite satisfied with the product as of now.

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