My brother and I grew up loathing fish. Strange really, as we grew up in a household of seafood lovers. Whenever Mum would fix up Dad’s favourites of fish pakoras, salmon tikka or king prawn curry (now replaced by Harbour House crabs), Aj and I would grimace and hold our noses pretending to make dying noises, as we walked past the kitchen. As I said… we were not fans!
Annoyingly we both really wanted to like seafood – especially my brother. So much so, that he even tried hypnosis (this actually proved to be quite successful until he had an undesirable experience with a fish bone but that’s another story for another time). I opted for the more traditional approach and began by trying the “least fishy” dish out there. Fish and chips obviously. Beer battered deep fried fish accompanied with chips and lashings of salt and vinegar (and to the disgrace of southerners, curry sauce)… what was not to like?? From then on, I slowly progressed and have now become more adventurous with my fishy choices.
Marrying into a Bengali family has also helped. Hubby’s family hail from West Bengal which is famously known as the land of maach (fish) and bhaat (rice). Bengalis share an irrevocable relationship with these two foods that are a staple in almost every household. My mother in law is an excellent cook (I’m not just saying that in-case she reads my blog) so it’s become even easier to embrace the deliciousness that is, dare I say it, fish!
Today’s recipe is inspired by dinnertime at the in-laws and is an absolute Bengali classic. Uber satisfying devoured with steaming hot basmati rice, Chingri Malaikari is a creamy, spicy, coconuty delight to eat. Oh and tip – the bigger and juicer the prawn you can get, the better. Enjoy! x
- 12 King Prawns (de-veined and de-shelled)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp mustard oil (optional, can use vegetable oil)
- 2 tbsp ghee (optional)
- 1" cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 4 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2"ginger, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 bird eye green chillis, vertically sliced in halves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 300ml coconut milk
- Place prawns in a bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, turmeric and paprika and mix well.
- Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the prawns and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Turn the prawns over and cook for a further 2 minutes. The prawns should be firm and white. Remove from the pan.
- Heat the mustard oil and ghee in the previously used pan. Once hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and cumin.
- When these whole spices begin to splatter, add the onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Now add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
- Add salt, paprika, turmeric, garam masala sugar and 2 tbsp water into a bowl and mix together to make a paste. Add this paste to the pan along with the green chillis and mix well.
- Now add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and then immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until it is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Check for salt and adjust accordingly.
- Now add the prawns. Allow to simmer for a further 3-4 minutes and turn off the heat.
- If you do not have all of the whole spices, it does not matter - you can still make the dish without them!
- Be careful not overcook the prawns once you add them in the gravy as they can toughen and become rubbery.