A Bengali-Parsi saas-bahu Prawn Curry story
The much-talked-about Prawn Curry
All I wanted to eat when I headed back to Kolkata, after I had moved to Mumbai, was lots and lots of meat.
At home that meant chicken, as mom didn’t cook red meat because of health worries.
I used to live as a paying guest when I landed in Mumbai.
Only vegetarian meals were allowed in my PG. I needed my fill of meat when I was back home in Kolkata.
I would get upset when my mom would make fish as fish was not as exciting to me.
I had grown up eating fish every day and the Sunday chicken meal was much more treasured. The only exceptions were the fish head daal my mother would make and her prawn curry.
Those were special.
When I got married and went to Kolkata with my wife, my mother and grandmother were very happy.
My wife, a Parsi, loves fish and, unlike me, would be very excited when they served her fish. Finally there was someone to eat the fish the Bengali ladies in my family loved to cook.
My wife also loved the prawn curry my mother made. So on trips when I went to Kolkata on work without my wife, my mother would make the prawn curry on the last day of my trip.
She would make me go to the local market and buy tiffin boxes. She would then send the prawn curry to Mumbai for my wife through me in them.
I never knew whether the look of glee on my wife’s face when I returned was on seeing me or on seeing the prawn curry!
I have tried to recreate the prawn curry in Mumbai with tips on the phone from my mother and my wife has been quite pleased with it.
My Mom’s Prawn Curry
500 g deveined prawns with the heads and tails attached (Bengalis love sucking on the heads of prawns)
3 potatoes, cubed
2 tbsp of vegetable or mustard oil (Mom uses the former)
½ tsp of turmeric powder, 1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole garam masala – cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, 2 bay leaves, 2 dried red chillies
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
Paste of 1 onion
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp each of red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, 1/2 tsp each of turmeric powder and salt - pasted together in a bit of water
½ a teacup of water
½ tsp chopped coriander, 2 split green chillies, ½ tsp garam masala powder
1. Take 400 - 500 gm prawns and mildly fry in a bit of turmeric and salt. Just fry till the colour of the prawns change and becomes opaque.
2. Prawns should not be over-cooked. Drain out the water which might come out when you fry the prawns.
3. Three potatoes, cubed, parboiled and lightly fried in the same spice mix and set aside. Parboiling is important as it won’t be cooked for too long in the curry.
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan
2. Add 1 tsp whole garam masala, 2 bay leaves, 2 dry red chillies - let them splutter/crackle
3. Add 1/2 tspn of whole cumin (shada jeere) and let it splutter
4. Add paste of half an onion. Stir till onion becomes brownish
5. Add 1 tsp of ginger paste
6. Add paste of three tomatoes to this and let it thicken. The red colour and tangy taste distinguish this dish
7. Add the masala mix, which is 1 tsp each of red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, 1/2 tsp each of turmeric powder, salt made into a paste in a bit of water and added to the curry mix
8. Add half a cup of water to this. Let it come to a boil
9. Reduce the flame. Add prawns and potato as the sauce simmers
10. Keep the flame on for a couple of minutes and then shut the flame, cover pan with a lid and let the prawn cook in its own steam.
11. Garnish with chopped coriander, split green chillies, garam masala powder
Eat it with plain steamed rice though my wife has this by itself or with rotis as she doesn’t eat rice.
Photo credit: Kalyan Karmakar
Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013 and 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.
Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped