The chingris (prawns) were swimming in the huge earthen tub Balai had placed close to him. Balai, the machwala, our very own machwala (the fishmonger) who kept his stock of fresh prawns and bancha (live) magur for Baba. The big and small prawns moved about in the water and children, who went to the fish market, stood with backs bent at 45 degrees to see them...fear and excitement moving together in the euphoric trolley of childishness.
When the chingri was carried home in the cotton jhola...Ma stitched the jholas from the used and somewhat faded floral skirts and frocks of her little girls. Her little girls...never protested ...once the old ones were cut and stitched into user friendly items...there was a look beyond ...for new ones...and then...
The wait for the curry to be served would be like waiting for years. Ma would give instructions and Thakur (the cook) would follow obediently...she loved supervising. With chingri in the kitchen, it could be Chigrir jhol, Chingri Kosha, Chingri Bhapa, Chingrir Malai Curry, Chingri cooked with lots of onion and capsicum and tomato sauce, Chingrir boda. Thinking about all this my mouth salivates.
...and my recipe waits to be written down...my Chingrir Malai Curry with a difference...
Prawns – ½ Kg. shell and de-vein, wash properly, sprinkle some haldi powder and salt. Set aside to marinade.
Make a paste of 2 onions, 2-3 garlic cloves and about an inch length of ginger.
Coconut milk– ½ cup
Haldi, red chilli powder, a pinch of sugar and salt to taste, tej patta and whole garam masala.
And of course cooking oil.
Place the kadhai/wok on the burning stove. Add 1 cup of water. As soon as the water starts getting hot, add the marinaded prawns , cover and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. By now the water is completely dry, add 2 tsp of cooking oil and stir the prawns for another couple of minutes. Now keep it aside.
When I have a good stock of prawns, I marinade with salt and haldi powder, cook them in boiling water for a short time, about 3-4 minutes, put them out in a bowl to cool. This is then kept in the fridge for later use...can be added instantly for any dish as it is already cooked. I feel the flavour and taste remains much stronger than when it is fried.
In the kadhai pour some oil, quantity check is yours. Once it is hot add 2 tej patta (bay leaves), whole garam masala of cinnamon (dalchini) 2 sticks, cardamom (elaichi) 4 and cloves (laung) 4...beaten in mortar and pestle to break up roughly...and sauté. When the aroma of the spices start spreading add the onion, ginger, garlic paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes over medium flame.
Then put in 1 tsp haldi powder, ½ tsp red chilli powder, and sauté again.
Next add salt and sugar and cook till the spices show sign of separating from the oil.
Add the coconut milk and some water and let this gravy cook over high flame for some more time.
Now add the prawns and watch out for your preferred thickness of the gravy.
Serve with rice, for that’s better.
As I had mentioned in the title, this curry is cooked with a difference. It was the sudden arrival of guests during the lunch hour which made me think of increasing the quantity to serve this curry to everyone without any complaint. I boiled 2 big potatoes, removed the skin and made small cues.
When the gravy showed signs of thickening, added the prawns and cubed potatoes. Cooked for another couple of minutes before transferring into the serving bowl.
In a malai curry we don’t add potatoes, but you can in a situation like this...makes no difference. After all “Necessity is the mother of invention” isn’t it?