Monday, July 06, 2020

Chili Garlic Shrimp

Chili Garlic Shrimp, Chili Garlic Shrimp

Chili Garlic Shrimp

Shrimp tossed with lots of garlic, a hot chilli-garlic and soy sauce is the easiest dish to make. I added some of the Korean Gochujang sauce to the shrimp and it added a burst of flavors

Long back in elementary school, we had to routinely write essays in class, and I often wrote  one with an opening sentence like  "Man is a social animal". I don't think I understood what it meant. The heft of that sentence deluded my 10-11 year old mind. I had found it in some book and it seemed an important enough sentence to get the teacher's attention, and so  many of my school essays be it personal narratives like "My Best Friend" or autobiographical like " Life of a Bovine Creature", began with an opening of "Man is a social animal."

I understand that sentence now in my own way. Human beings seek company, even when it is not needed. Just for the heck of it.
Take me for instance. I was leading  a perfectly peaceful life during the quarantine period. I never felt the need to go out to party or meet people or have dinner together. Whenever I needed to talk, I did enough of that over Phone, texts, Whatsapp, Zoom, Facebook and what not. There was nothing more that I really needed to say to anyone face to face. But once the quarantine orders were lifted what happens ? We started planning on meeting people.

As Covid cases are decreasing in our state and seems to be under control, we have become more braver with meeting people. The fact that it is summer and we can mingle outside in the backyard has helped too. No knowing what the future holds though, who wins, the virus or humans need to socialize.

As Sandip Roy says in this article where he draws a metaphor between the pandemic and the Bengali's favorite "paashbaalish",  will the Bengalis side pillow outlast the pandemic, or will the virus be a steady factor in the life of humans as they go about socializing at less than 6 ft distance.

Now back to food, I have to sheepishly admit that I had no idea what Korean #Gochujang sauce was in the pre-Covid era.🙈
I heard a lot more about it during the lockdown as folks were creating dishes at home, that reminded them of their favorite restaurant joints. Or maybe they were always creating those but I had not paid attention.

Anyway I got a bottle of the Gochujang sauce last week at the grocery store. Since then I have been hooked and finished a bottle of it almost. I made this delicious Chili Garlic Shrimp using some of this sauce and our favorite Sichuan hot sauce. It was super easy and quick to make. Everyone agreed that it was delicious. It is the kind of dish that will help you ease into the "new normal" after blissful months pf "lyaad normal".

I have used Sichuan hot sauce and Gochujang sauce here. However if you don't have them, don't fret. You can use the Indian Chinese Red Chilli Sauce instead. You can also play around with the sauces to get the right note that hits your taste buds. Enjoy!

Chili Garlic Shrimp


Shrimp/Prawns -- about 30 raw shrimp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Paprika - 1/2 tsp
AP Flour - 1 Tbsp
Cornstarch -- 1 Tbsp

Onion - 1 small chopped in thin slices
Garlic - 5-6 cloves minced
Ginger - 1 Tbsp grated
Vegetable Oil/Peanut Oil/Sesame Oil - 4-5 Tbsp

Scallion/Green onion - to garnish

Make the Sauce

Sichuan Hot sauce Or Chilli-Garlic Sauce - 4-5 Tbsp (If you don't have this, use the Indian Chinese Red Chilli Sauce)
Gochujang Sauce - 4 Tbsp (If you don't have this, use a mix of Maggi Hot and sweet + Green chilli sauce + little Vinegar)
Soy Sauce - 1 Tbsp
In a bowl add all of the above and make the sauce. Taste and adjust as per your taste

Start Cooking

Clean the shrimp. If you are using frozen shrimp then defrost by running in water at room temperature. Don't ever use hot water or defrost in microwave. Another option is to put shrimp in a ziploc bag and dunk it in a bowl of water at room temp.

Dry the shrimp. Sprinkle salt and paprika and mix. Dust with flour and cornstarch and coat the shrimp

Heat Oil in a skillet. We will just shallow fry the shrimp so maybe 3-4 Tbsp Oil.

Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp, in a single layer and saute until they turn reddish and cooked. Flip and cook the other side. Shrimp cooks fast, specially the frozen ones.
Remove the shrimp on a plate and keep aside.

If there is oil remaining in the pan, use that. Or else add a little oil.

Once the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
When you get the aroma of garlic, add the grated ginger. Saute for a couple of minutes until onion is soft

Next goes in the sauce. Stir in everything in the pan together and cook the sauce for a minute or so. Sprinkle little water if necessary.

Now reduce heat and add the shrimp to the pan. Tossing it so that the shrimp is well coated with the sauce.

Switch off gas. Garnish with green onion and serve as main dish or even as appetizers.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Lau Ghonto with Bori and Lau Chingri

BottleGourd with Bori and BottleGourd with Shrimp...

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto Bori diye | Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto is a popular Bengali vegetarian dish for the summer months made with Bottlegourd that has been chopped fine and garnished with fried Bori. There is also a non-veg version of this dish, Lau Chingri, where fried shrimp is mixed with the dish.

This post was first done in 2008 when I was pregnant with LilSis. Given that my pregnancies were never an easy affair, I don't know how I made a Lau Ghonto and posted a recipe then. The Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.
I have been eating real simple these days, simple food not laced with too many rich spices or garlic and onion seems to have become my favorite. It is still spring here but my food cravings are like those served in my home during the hot summer months.
Summer veggies like Lau(Bengali)/Lauki(Hindi)/Bottle gourd, Parwal, Green mangoes have caught my fancy. These veggies prepared with simple spices and no onion or garlic and a light fish curry is what is staple food, in most Bengali homes in the Gangetic Plains where summer is hot and humid.

Green View from my Kitchen

Is it the green all around that makes me long for these veggies ? Before the days of air conditioned grocery stores and easy availability of exotic veggies, vegetables in the local markets were seasonal in India. So while winter was colored with deep red beet-root, orange carrots and rich red tomatoes, summer was green with deep green striped parwal, mellowed green bottle gourd, vivid rich green of cucumber and smooth green of raw mangoes.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi
Chopped Lau/Bottlegourd

The tender lau or bottle gourd with its soothing green skin soothes the eyes in harsh summer and because of its high water content has a cooling effect and so is one of the preferred veggies in the summer months.
According to ayurveda, the cooked bottlegourd is cooling, diuretic, sedative and anti­bilious(corrects secretion of bile). It gives a feeling of relaxation after eating it. It is rich in essential minerals and fibre.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto

I am sharing this veggie and the dish with Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska who is hosting WHB, originated by Kalyn, this week

The bottle gourd was used in several different kinds of dishes in my home ranging from the dal, the lau-ghonto which I think was made with milk and usually white in color, another lau-ghonto with fish head, the lau ghonto with bori where the dish was garnished with fried moong dal vadis, the lau-chingri where the shrimp was mixed with the dish to dress up the simple homely dish.

The recipe of Lau Bori and Lau Chingri here is as my Ma made it.

Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.

Lau Ghonto with Bori


Lauki/Bottlegourd ~ 3 cups. Peeled and chopped in small pieces. You need to cut the bottlegourd in really small & thin pieces, large chunks are a NO NO.
Tomato ~1 medium finely chopped in small pieces
Green Chilli ~ 3-4 slit through the middle. I use hot Indian Geen Chillies
Ginger - 1" piece

For Tempering

Bay Leaves ~ 2 small
Cinnamon Stick ~ 1” stick
Whole Jeera/Cumin seeds ~ ½ tsp

Wet Masala Paste

Cumin seeds - 1.5 tsp Cumin seeds
Ginger - 1" ginger chopped ~ 1 Tbsp

With a sprinkle of water make a paste of cumin and ginger in a mortar-pestle.

Note: If you cannot make a fresh paste like as I said, then grate the ginger and mix with 1 tsp of Cumin powder to make a paste

Dry Spice powders

Red Chilli Powder ~ 1/2 tsp or according to your spice level. I go with the green hot chillies and do not use any chilli powder.
Turmeric Powder ~ about 1 tsp

Sugar ~ 1/2 tsp or none if you don’t like it sweet
Salt ~ to taste

For garnish

Bori ~ 1/4th Cup of Moong Dal Bori fried and crumbled. If you do not have any Bori, you might skip it. The Bengali Vadis are known as Boris and are small sun dried cones of lentil paste, the shapes are like Hershey's Kisses. Here is a recipe of boris made of Urad Dal. These boris are fried and then added to the dish.
Coriander Leaves ~ a fistful finely chopped

How I Did It

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan.

Fry the Bori/Vadi till it is a nice warm rich brown. Remove and keep aside

Temper the oil with Bay leaf, Cinnamon Stick and Whole Cumin seeds
When the cumin starts sputtering add the finely chopped tomato and green chillies.
Sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy with no raw smell.

Add the wet masala paste of ginger-cumin. Saute the masala for 2 minutes. Sprinkle some water if necessary

Add the chopped bottle gourd and mix with the spices. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Add Turmeric powder, salt and mix well

Once you have mixed it nicely, cover and cook. Intermittently remove the cover and give it a good stir. You don’t need to add water as bottle gourd releases water on cooking. If the bottlegourd is dried up or not that fresh you may need to add little water while cooking.

When the bottlegourd/lau is fully cooked, add sugar and cook for a minute. The water should have dried up by now and the result would be a dish with no gravy but moist.

Now crumble the fried bori on top
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves

Lau Chingri aka Bottle Gourd with Shrimp

Lau Chingri, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Everything is same as the Lau-Bori recipe. Except for the Bori you need about ½ cup of shrimp. Wash the shrimp and mix with a little turmeric and salt and let it marinade for 30 minutes. Fry them to a light yellow and remove and keep aside. Cook Bottlegourd exactly as above. Instead of the bori, mix the shrimp with the bottlegourd at the second last step. Sauté for a minute and you are done.

Other recipes of similar Bengali Lau er Tarkari:

Tetor Dal with BitterGourd and BottleGourd

Trivia: Ektara the most ancient form of string instrument found in the Eastern parts of India, is constructed out of a half of a dried gourd shell serving as the sound-box, with a metal string running right through the middle of the shell. The Ektara was used by the Bauls of Bengal for their folk singing

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna 

Chanar Dalna is a typical niramish (vegetarian) Bengali dish where homemade paneer balls or koftas are fried and cooked in a lightly spiced, subtly sweet gravy with potatoes. I have shared my Mother's recipe of Chanar Dalna in this post which is cooked with a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger.

Every Friday, as far along as I can remember, my Mother kept a fast and therefore did not cook any meat or fish on that day. She herself ate a single one-pot meal of rice and vegetables cooked together with some ghee and salt. But for some reason unknown to me, she felt that one day of not having any protein would render us weak and feeble. Trust me, there was not a sign in my health to make her believe such. But she steadfastly did. And according to Bengalis that protein can never ever come from a "dal" or lentils. It has to be meat, eggs or if those failed then dairy!

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Fresh chana simmering in gravy

So, my Mother made Chana or as we say Chhana aka cottage cheese. Diligently. Week after week. She boiled whole milk and squeezed lime juice in it until the milk had a rent and tore apart to form blobs of white cotton like milk solids suspended in a greenish whey. She then drained the whey out on a piece of starched white cloth, usually cut from one of one of her old saris and washed and dried to act as a cheesecloth. That paneer or chhana then rested under the weight of our black stone nora until all the water was squeezed out. She sometimes tried to feed me that raw chana with sugar sprinkled on it, saying it was good for me, but I hated it so very much that she soon gave up that idea.

Instead, she made flat disc shapes from that chhana, shallow fried them golden brown in oil and dunked them in a lightly spices sweetish gravy with potatoes and spice blend.The gravy would always be a thin one, spiced with freshly made paste of cumin and ginger. That niramish chanar dalna with those pillowy soft balls of cottage cheese was a much loved dish from my childhood. If that was how I was supposed to get my protein fix, I was all for it!

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Niramish Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

And so Chanar Dalna stayed on as a staple in our home on most Fridays. It would also pop up twice or sometimes thrice in the course of the week but if it was Friday then it was almost sure that Chanar Dalna was on the menu.

I usually make a chanar dalna with store bought paneer as that is easier and quicker. Also, my kids like that paneer a lot, we get really a very good Nanak paneer which is soft and delicious. However I have to agree that they are not the same thing. The Chanar Dalna that my Mother made, with homemade chana or homemade cottage cheese is definitely a dish that Bengalis will find more superiors.

Cumin-Ginger-Green Chilli paste
Today, I re-created the same dish with chana or paneer made at home. I wanted to get the exact flavor of my childhood dish and so instead of using cumin powder, I made a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger  in my mortar, the quintessential jeere-ada baata, and used that paste as the masala for this dish. I must say that the fresh ground paste played an important role to enhance the flavor of this light curry. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtly sweet Chanar Dalna with rice for dinner today.

The kids thought that there was no need to go the extra mile of making chhana at home!! But sometimes you do things, for your own happiness, and that's fine.

It wasn't a difficult dish to cook, maybe takes bit more time to make. If you are running short of time, you can make the chhana a day ahead and then do the gravy the next, that might make the process easier. Also for an easier version of the dish with store bough Paneer follow my other Chhanar Dalna Recipe.