Chingri Malaikari or prawns in a creamy coconut gravy is a classic Bengali delicacy which is popular for its flavour and texture.
This luscious Bengali fish curry frequently appears on special occasions like weddings and annaprashan.
Due to its name, some people believe that this dish has a Malaysian influence and the early version of the recipe might have been brought by Malaysian sailors to the Bay of Bengal.
There is always an ongoing debate about the origin of the dish and I believe that this cuisine is most likely so ancient that no one knows the exact details.
The goodness of coconut milk takes this curry to the next level. We generally use a large sized Golda or Bagda chingri but small prawns with heads intact work well too. However, bigger the prawn size better the culinary experience.
I highly recommend keeping the shell and the head of the prawn if you use a big sized lobster. Keeping the head is mandatory as it imparts a brilliant flavour to the curry.
For Tempering Oil:
- Bay leaf: 1-2
- Cinnamon: one 2” stick
- Green cardamom: 4-5, freshly crushed
- Fresh green chilli: 1, cut into halves lengthwise
- Mustard oil or vegetable oil: ¼ cup
- Prawns: 500 gms
- Red onion: 1, large
- Ginger: 2” stick
- Garlic: 6 cloves
- Green chilli: 4-5
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
- Curd: 4 tbsp beaten well so that there are no lumps
- Coconut milk: 200 ml
- Sugar: 1 tsp
- Salt: 1 tsp
- Wash and clean lobsters/prawns carefully; devein but keep the head attached. A juicy brain is the secret of good Malaikari.
- Marinate the prawns with turmeric and salt and keep aside for 30 mins.
- Heat mustard oil or white oil in deep a bottomed pan and fry the prawns very carefully until they turn golden from both sides.
- Flip once and cook not more than 30 secs to 1 min in total if you are using small sized prawns (Big lobsters need 2/3 mins each side, Overcooked prawns turn rubbery which isn’t appetising).
- Remove the fried prawns or lobsters from oil and keep in the serving bowl. The dripping oil from the fried prawns will add extra flavours into the curry.
- Add the tempering ingredients to the same oil with and add two dry red chillies.
- Make a paste of the onion and once the masala starts spluttering add the paste to oil. Fry the paste for 1 min. Then add a paste of ginger and garlic and 2 green chillies and add to the pan; sauté for 1 minute on medium flame.
- Now add all dry spices including sugar and salt and mix well. Once the oil starts oozing out from the sides, add coconut milk in batches. Mix the masala well and add a little coconut milk again so that the masala doesn’t burn. (I have bought milk and also made another batch by adding warm water to coconut flesh, then grinding and straining the milk. Only coconut milk is used for making the gravy and no extra water is added).
- Add whisked curd, then add fried prawns/lobsters and stir lightly. Cover the pan and keep on simmer for 1 minute. Do not over cook.
- You may add dollop of ghee and some fresh green chillies to finish.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.
Born in a remote town in West Bengal with no access to restaurants or fancy food, Poulamee Ghosh Barman would witness her mother and aunties cook delicacies at home for celebratory gatherings.
Ilish bhapa, chingri malaikari, dal, fritters, fried rice, pulao, kosha mangsho. Everything prepared at home was gourmet quality.
12 years ago, she moved to Bengaluru to pursue a career in IT with an MNC, where she had a hard time adapting to the southern Indian food culture. Plus, the high cost of living in a metro city meant she had to cook for her survival. YouTube recipes weren’t common then so she would call her mother or aunty for instructions. Eventually cooking became her favourite hobby and feeding people, her love language.
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