Chingri Malaikari or Prawn Malaikari (no relation to our dear Malaika at all), is a very famous and popular Bengali entrée served with white Rice or Pulao for lunch or dinner on special occasions. I saw it described somewhere as an “Elegant Bengali Classic” – that definitely sums up this dish. It is so delicious that I want to run down and have my dinner right now instead of writing this up.
I made it this Sunday as a pre-B’day treat for my husband and this write up is for Chandrika of Akshyapatra who said she would like to have the recipe of a certain prawn recipe she had at her Bong friend’s place and which I guessed to be the infamous Chingri Malaikari.
So most people think that coconut or coconut milk is not a popular ingredient in Bengali cooking, but it is in many of the special Bengali cuisines. This particular dish is cooked in a spiced up gravy of coconut milk and involved a lot of hard work for my Ma back in India. Since life & it’s commodities in India was not universally canned or processed back then, she had to press the grated coconut to extract the sweet white coconut milk.
Here in the US, life is much easy and you just pick a can of coconut milk off the shelf of your grocery store. I guess this and the abundance of prawns, is also a reason why you would find Prawn Malaikari a part of the menu in most Bong parties in the US.
For today’s preparation I got ½ lb of large prawns with heads on and ½ lb with heads removed. The reason for this being the prawns head being very very tasty adds a fourth dimension to this already delicious preparation. However if you are not very familiar around prawns, I would suggest you get only the ones with no head , as the prawn head has to be delicately cleaned.
If you want to though, go through the following steps to clean fresh prawn :-
Remove the hard shell, do not remove the tail, leave it on
De-vein the prawn, slit the back a little and take out the black thread thingy
For shrimps with heads, carefully remove only the front portion of the head the eyes etc., do not remove the entire head, you want to keep the liquidy thing inside the head.
Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.
What You Need
Prawns ~ 1lb of the larger size, get fresh ones, see above why I got some with heads on
Onion ~ I made a paste of a large one and used about 5 tbsp of the paste (yipe, I noted the measure)
Garlic ~ 1 large clove coarsely chopped
Ginger ~ 1 tsp
Green Chillies ~ 6 slit
Coconut Milk ~ 1 can
TejPata or Bay Leaves ~ 4 small
Elaichi or Cardamom ~ 4
Laung or Cloves ~ 6
Darchini or Cinnamon ~ 2 smallish sticks as in picture
Red Chilli Powder
How I Do It
Clean the prawns as explained earlier and mix it with turmeric and salt and keep aside for about ½ hour
Meanwhile grind the onion to a paste.Note: If your onion paste tends to turn bitter, saute the onions until translucent and then make the paste.
Heat oil in Kadai/Frying Pan
Lightly fry the prawns so they turn golden in color, do not deep fry like other fish.
As soon as the prawns turn a pale golden take them out put them on a paper towel.
In the same oil, add the chopped garlic.
As soon as the fragrance of the garlic rises, take out the garlic from the oil so that the oil is now garlic flavored but there is no garlic in the gravy.
Add TejPata or BayLeaves
Coarsely pound the Elaichi, Laung & Darchini with a pestle and add them too
Add the onion paste when you see the whole garam masala crackling
Continue frying the onion with a little bit of sugar till it turns brown in color or the oil separates from the paste
Add the ginger paste and cook the masala.
Stir and add the can of coconut milk
Add a little water (about 1/3 of the can) in the can, mix well and add it too.
Add Red Chilli Powder, very little turmeric powder and salt.
Add the green chillies
Mix well and cook the gravy. The gravy tastes best when you simmer it a low heat for about 25-30 minutes
When you see the oil surfacing on the gravy add the fried prawns.
Cook on low for some more time till the gravy thickens and acquires a creamy consistency.
Serve with white Rice or yellow Pulao
Do make it a point to try out this dish, you will find a dinner of white Basmati Rice & Chingri macher Malaikari is nothing but unadulterated pleasure.
Note: If you scour the net you might find variations of this recipe, but this is how my Ma and I make it
Trivia:It seems our very own dada, Sourav Ganguly is very fond of Chingri Macher Malaikari and his wife Dona serves him this every day when he is at home. Sorav, better get your cholesterol checked.