Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Daab Chingri -- Prawns in Tender Coconut Shell

Daab Chingri | Prawns in Tender Coconut

Daab Chingri | Prawns cooked in tender coconut shell

Daab Chingri, or prawns cooked in tender coconut shell is more of an urban Bengali dish, made very popular by restaurants. The base recipe is very much like shorshe chingri bhaape, where prawns are mixed in a mustard-coconut paste and then steamed. Here the steaming or cooking happens in a tender green coconut shell, with the the tender coconut(daab) and its cream(daab er malai) elevating the flavor of the dish. 

Not all recipes start with a line like "And in my grandmother's kitchen..."

Neither do all recipes have a boat load of nostalgia tied to them.

But one thing is true, every delicious recipe is triggered by the memory of a meal.

I had never seen a Daab Chingri cooked in my grandmother's kitchen. Neither did my Mother ever make it. Daab aka Tender Young Coconut was very popular in India and we loved it as a drink. Bonus was the tender meat of the coconut -- the shaansh. But prawns cooked in the shell of a tender green coconut? It never featured in any of my childhood meals!

Now Shorshe Chingri Bhaape, where prawns were mixed with a mustard-coconut paste and steamed, was a very popular dish in my home. Only it was steamed in a sealed stainless steel container, that was put either in a pot of rice being cooked or in a pressure cooker. Sometimes, and only sometimes, in my Dida's kitchen, shrimp, coconut and mustard paste would be tossed together, put in a coconut shell and tucked into the dying embers of a unoon. But that was not Daab, that was the hard cooconut shell, it was more of a hasty practical dish and not fancy.

I started hearing about Daab Chingri only when finer Bengali food restaurants started sprouting around Kolkata metropolis. Unlike the paise hotels, which served everyday Bengali meals to the masses, these restaurants offered fine dining in a lovely ambiance and a menu that boasted of Bengali delicacies -- some known and some concocted. I have a hunch that "Daab Chingri" was a brilliant idea spawned by one of them. It tasted delicious like Chingri Bhaape and was very unique in its presentation style. No wonder the dish took off swiftly and spread like wild fire.

Soon, every other person started saying "The Bengali traditional Daab Chingri cooked by my grandmother....". Like really? Your grandmother in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even early 90s cooked Daab Chingri in her kitchen? Errr...think twice!

But to be honest, Daab Chingri is more of an urban Bengali dish and not one of those traditional ones with boatmen, Portuguese, Thakurbari and history written all over them.

Daab Chingri at 6 Ballygunge Place
So anyway, having heard so much about this dish, I wanted to desperately try it. Last time during my India trip, my parents took me to 6 Ballygunge Place. Beautiful decor, awesome table settings, very unique menu -- I was blown over! And they had Daab Chingri on the menu. I had to order it of course. It was a beautiful dish no doubt but I had a feeling that the prawns were cooked prior and then the dish finished off in the Daab. No harm done of course. Maybe this is how one makes Daab Chingri, I concluded.

Then last week, my very talented friend Moumita made Daab Chingri at home and shared with me. It was delicious. The Daab that we get here is not the green coconut served in Indian restaurants, but a slightly more mature version, stripped of the green exterior.

Today, I had a deep desire to cook Daab Chingri at home. Moumita was away from her phone. I started browsing recipes on the internet and each involved garlic, cream, paanchphoron and what not 😡😭. That's not how  I envisioned Daab Chingri. I knew my Daab Chingri would be the mustard-coconut one and not the garlic-cream one.

I then, texted another friend Baishali and she promptly shared two recipes with me. Both her recipes were exactly how I wanted them to be and here's what sealed the deal. Her recipes were very, very easy.

In fact one of them was done totally in the Microwave. As I was experimenting, I tried both the Oven and Microwave method. With lots of green Chili, the sharp mustard paste mellowed by the mildly sweet Coconut, golden Mustard Oil, and succulent prawns -- this was a beautiful dish. Triggered by the memory of a meal and aided by friends, it was dish I would always treasure.💓

To be honest, it is very much like the Shorshe Chingri Bhaape who has gone to a glamorous party. The Tender Coconut Shell definitely adds some panache to the presentation and lends a layer of coconut flavor to the dish.

Daab Chingri | Prawns cooked in tender coconut shell

Tender Coconut

Where to BUY in US: Asian stores or Indian stores. Some American grocery chains sell them too.Unlike what you have seen in India, the Tender Young Coconut here is stripped off the pale green exterior.

Get 2 tender young Coconut. Lope off the top of the coconut to create a neat opening as shown in photo. (We had to use a hacksaw as the tender coconut was not enough tender)

Pour out the coconut water. You will need 1/2 cup of it in your cooking. Drink the rest.

Ideally the Coconut should have malai and you should be able to scoop out some of the malai from the daab leaving just a thin layer.

The tender coconut I got, hardly had any malai!!!

The Prawns

12-15 Jumbo Prawns
Wash and shell the prawn and devein them
Mix the prawns with salt and turmeric and keep aside for half an hour

Make the Shorshe-Narkol Baata -- the Mustard-Coconut Paste

Mustard Seeds ~ 3 tbsp
Posto or Poppy Seeds ~ 3 tsp
in warm water for 30 minutes to 3 hrs. Better if you soak longer

Strain the seeds

In a blender jar add
Mustard + Poppy seeds
Green Chilli ~ 3
Salt ~ a pinch
With a splash of water, grind to a paste

Next add
Narkel or Grated Coconut ~ 1/2 cup fresh or frozen.
Yogurt ~ 2 tbsp thick beaten yogurt.
Note: If your tender coconut has good Malai then instead of grated coconut use the Malai to make the paste
Run the blender again to make a Mustard-Coconut paste

Get the gravy ready

Now heat 3 tbsp Mustard Oil in a saucier.

Lightly saute the shrimp and remove. Keep aside. Shrimp should just lose its raw color but not get fully cooked.

In same Oil, add 3-4 slit green Chilies

Follow with the Mustard-Coconut paste. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add 1 Cup of thinned Coconut Milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes

Add 1/2 Cup of Coconut water.

Add Turmeric powder, salt to taste, a pinch of sugar if needed and cook for a 5-6 more minutes until gravy is thicker.

Add the shrimp to the gravy and mix.

Bringing it together

Take a tender coconut shell.

Pour 1/2 tsp of Mustard oil, 1 green chili slit and swirl it around.

Now transfer the prawns and gravy into the daab. Don't over pack it.

Add 2 more slit green chili.

Put the lid of the daab back on top to close the mouth.

You can cook the Daab in 1. Microwave or 2. Oven

Cooking in Microwave

Wrap the Daab tightly with cling-wrap.

Cook in microwave for 5 minutes.
And then another 5 minutes.

Total of 10 minutes in high.

Cooking in Oven

Pre-heat oven to 300F

Seal the top of the Daab with Atta dough.

Put the Daab in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.


Daab Chingri, Bong Mom, Bong Mom's Cookbook, Bengali Recipes

When serving, open the lid --> add few more drops of mustard oil --> scoop the insides lightly with a spoon --> mix --> and serve with white rice.

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  1. Totally agree, some fusion recipes get so mixed up into the current scenario that it is tough to figure out which one is authentic... that daab chingri looks amazing though with the flavors of the tender coconut water...

  2. Like you, I too tasted dab chingri in a Kolkata restaurant for the first time in the late 1990s, by which time both my grandmothers were long dead. However, I beg to differ with on the history of dab chingri. Long before my maternal grandmother knew that restaurants would one day serve this dish, she told me about this dish on one of those long summer afternoons when she had run out of all stories to tell. She said they used to make this in their village home in Komilla when she was a child. She was born in 1912, so her childhood was in the decade of the First World War. They made it in theblower chamber of their huge "sarkari chulla', after the day's cooking was done, but when the coals still retained a simmering flame. They also wrapped up fish and prawns in laupata and kumro pata and cooked them in this chulla. She also said how it was later not possible to make these dishes as homes c hanged, they moved to Calcutta, and such chullas were not available. So yes, the dab chingri was certainly reinvented by restaurants, but it may have existed earlier. Unless my dida was dreaming it all up.

    1. You are right. My mom too said about the cooking in coconut shell in chulla at my Dida r house. Not Daab, coconut shell
      Bong Mom


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