After a week (or decade) of salads and proteins I wanted to make something comforting and traditional for our Saturday lunch. I had a bag of king prawns sitting inside the freezer and half a can of coconut milk in the fridge. Now that's rare thing with me. Whenever I suddenly crave for something I usually find that one or the other ingredient is missing from my pantry. I'm not one of those people who buys stuff without planning the menu first. Yes, call me crazy but that's how I am. I have a separate calendar and diary for meal planning. I normally chalk up a weeks menu (Dinner) in advance and make my shopping list accordingly instead of throwing stuff in the shopping trolley and then decide what to do with them. Hence, I hardly end up with two random stuff which are not meant to be there in the first place! So I had prawns, coconut milk and some frozen grated coconut. Well, I didn't let my imaginations run wild and did what any sane Bong would've done with these three main ingredients. I made Chingri Machher Malaikari, one of the ultimate traditional Bong comfort foods, just with a special twist.
Chingri Machher Malakari - Prawns in a Coconut Milk Sauce
Prawns - 250 gms (I used Atlantic Raw King Prawns)
Onion - 1 medium
Green Chilli - 1
Ginger Paste - 1 tsp
Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Coconut Milk - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp (or more)
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp
Strips of bird's eye chillies for garnish
Oil - 2-3 tbsp, Traditionally this dish is cooked in mustard oil but you can use any other oil
Dry Spices for Tempering :
Cinnamon - 1/2 inch stick
Green Cardamom - 3-4
Cloves - 2-3
Bay leaves - 2
Put the onion and chilli in a blender and blend into a fine paste. Heat oil in a wok and add all the dry spices listed under Tempering. Sizzle till they start spluttering. Add the onion chilli paste and sugar and fry on high heat till the onion starts to change colour.
Add the ginger garlic pastes and cook on medium heat till the raw smell is gone and oil separates. In the meantime add salt, turmeric and chilli powder to the coconut milk along with the 1/2 cup of water and whisk until you get a smooth cream.
Add the coconut milk mixture to the wok and bring to boil. Add the prawns*(See note) , cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Uncover, add the grated coconut and garam masala and cook on high flame till all the extra water has evaporated.
garnish with chilli strips and serve with hot steamed white rice.
***People who know what a malakari is will know what I meant by ''Twist'' after reading the method. Yes....the grated coconut! We don't normally use grated coconut in this dish. But who says you have to follow rules all the time!!! What's fun about that?***
*Note - Traditionally whole prawns are used for this dish, with heads and tails intact. I used the headless ones as my husband is not very keen on the heads and tails.
Also normally Bengalis fry the prawns before adding them to the gravy. But overcooking the prawns kill their delicate flavour and texture. So I prefer to add them directly to the gravy which leaves them succulent instead of making them rubbery. Another reason why I don't fry them is that way you are making the dish healthier. You can fry them if you want to. In that case fry them before you start cooking onions in the same wok. *
Serves - 2-3
Preparation Time - 5 minutes(if you are using frozen grated coconut, more if you are doing it at home)
Cooking time - 20 minutes