This is a fantastic recipe. The only shame is that it’s pretty much impossible to find the gala chingri (giant freshwater shrimp) in the US, other than on the coasts, where there must be more demand for them. One of my colleagues is from Bangladesh, and he told me these enormous shrimp are commonly used back home.
This dish is pretty easy to make, and if you often make curries and Asian food, you’ll probably have most of the ingredients already in the house.
There’s one really interesting ingredient in this recipe: mustard oil. This stuff caused me a lot of consternation on whether to use. As the label shows in the photo, for external only, which I didn’t notice until I got the oil home. WTF! Naturally, I looked online and discovered that the FDA prohibits its sale for human consumption, though it’s used extensively in the east. Apparently, the oil contains a high percentage of erucic acid, which has been found to cause heart problems in animals, though I couldn’t find any information on human studies. It seems the FDA, in all it’s wisdom, hasn’t done studies on humans, either, so they’re being really cautious. Did I use it? Yup! My Bangladeshi colleague told me his mom uses it all the time, and it’s safe. Granted, one doesn’t necessarily want to take health advice from a colleague’s Bangladeshi mother whom you’ve never met, but from I’ve read, she’s right.
The recipe comes from an outstanding food and travel site called Pikturenama. Check it out: the site has a lot of great content.
What you’ll need:
- *6 galda chingri jumbo freshwater prawns with a large head
- 1t turmeric powder
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 3 green cardamoms
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1.5t ginger paste
- 1t Kashmiri chili powder (I just used regular chili powder)
- 0.25t powdered Bengali garam masala (I had only regular garam masala)
- 3 green chillies
- 0.5t sugar
- 2T mustard oil
- 1t ghee
- salt, to taste
- 400 ml coconut milk (14.5 oz can)
*Glada chingri are enormous freshwater prawns, in this case, from Bangladesh. Ever the pessimist, I didn’t even look very hard to find them locally for sale, as it seemed very unlikely to find them. Instead, I used the largest shrimp I could readily find.
What to do:
Make sure the prawns/shrimp are appropriately prepared for cooking (cleaned, deveined, etc.), then put them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 0.5t turmeric powder and a bit of salt over the shrimp.
Make the onion into a paste with a food processor, and with a cheese cloth or a sieve, separate and reserve the onion juice. Put the onion paste aside for later, and add the onion juice to the shrimp. Mix the onion juice, turmeric and shrimp and let them marinade for 10 to 15 minutes.
This dish is to be cooked in a kadai, which is like a large flat-bottom wok. I don’t have one, so I just used a large regular wok, which worked fine. Heat the mustard oil and slowly slide in the prawns—maybe two or three at a time. The prawns need to cook for about 30 seconds or so on each side, until each side has taken on a bit of color. Don’t cook them through at this point. Once they’re slightly colored, remove them and set aside. Repeat until they’re all prepped.
In the same oil, heat the dried bay leaf, one slit green chili, whole cardamon, cinnamon and cloves. Once the spices have released their aroma—they will smell wonderful—add the reserved onion paste. Stir it for a minute, then add the ginger paste. Keep stirring over medium heat until the raw smell of the onions goes away.
Now add kashmiri red chili powder, and the other 0.5t of turmeric powder and sprinkle some water over everything. Cook the all these spices for a couple of minutes and then add coconut milk. The original recipe recommends adding only half the can at first, and add more if you think you’ll need it. I just added the entire can at once because you can always use more curry gravy!
Add some salt and the sugar to the coconut milk mixture and let everything simmer for about 5 – 6 minutes. Carefully add the prawns/shrimp, along with any juices that accumulated in the bottom of the vessel in which they were reserved.
Let the prawns simmer in the coconut gravy for another 5 – 6 minutes. If the prawns/shrimp are huge—if you’re lucky enough to find them—let them cook a couple of more minutes to ensure they’re fully cooked.
By this time, oil from the coconut milk should rise to the top (if it doesn’t, don’t be concerned). Now add the two remaining slit chilis, ghee and the garam masala.
Cook for about one more minute, then turn off the heat. Serve hot, over rice.