Bengali Chingri Malaikari
Legend has it that this dish made it’s way to Bengali kitchens through Malaysian traders in the 18th century - surprisingly, the ‘Malai” in its name is not a reference to the creamy coconut curry, but to “Malay” as in Malaysian!
The mustard oil and poppy seed paste/posto bata are what give this dish that really authentic Bengali flavour, but honestly don’t worry if you can’t find posto bata - the curry is delicious even without.
Makes for an easy yet immensely satisfying lunch alongside some steamed white rice.
To marinate the prawns:
4 Fresh Jumbo Prawns or 300 gm Frozen Prawns (fresh prawns preferable)
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Salt
To temper the oil:
1-2 Bay Leaf
1 2” Cinnamon Stick
4-5 Green Cardamom, freshly crushed
1 Fresh Green Chilli, cut into halves lengthwise
¼ cup Mustard Oil
1 Large Red Onion, chopped fine and blended into a paste in a mixie or food processor
1 2” stick Ginger, chopped fine
4-5 Green Chillies, chopped roughly
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Red Chilli Powder
200 ml Coconut Milk
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Poppy Seed Paste/Posto Bata (optional but preferable, as it makes the curry creamier and more flavoursome)
Wash, clean and devein the prawns carefully. You can keep the head attached or remove - as you prefer.
Smear prawns with turmeric and salt and keep aside for 30 mins to marinate.
Heat mustard oil in deep bottomed pan and fry each lobster very carefully until coloured into golden from both sides. Flip once and cook not for than 5 mins in total, or else the prawns lose their tenderness.
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place in the serving bowl. The dripping oil from the prawns will enhance the flavour of the curry.
To temper, heat the mustard oil and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamom and cut green chilli. Stir until the spices start to splutter.
Once the spices start spluttering, add the onion paste to the oil. Fry the paste for a few minutes.
Add the chopped ginger and 2 green chillies into a food processor/mixie and pulse into a paste. Add to the pan and sauté for 1 min. on high flame.
Now add the remaining dry spices including sugar and salt and stir well. Once the mixture starts to leave oil (i.e. gets bhuno’d) add the poppy seed paste.
Mix well and fry for 1-2 mins before turning the flame to its lowest and adding coconut cream. Mix gently and pour in some warm water, bring the curry to a boil.
Add the pan-fried prawns. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5 mins, before turning off the flame.
Transfer to serving dish, add a dollop of ghee and fresh green chilli. Let it cool for 5 minutes, this will allow the flavours develop a bit more. Then serve hot with steamed rice.