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Steamed Prawns in Mustard and Coconut Sauce
A dish close to my heart
Steamed Prawns or Bhapa Chingri is a very authentic Bengali recipe. From the very beginning one thing should be made very clear about this recipe is that Bhapa Chingri is not actually an Indian delicacy. Well it is definitely a Bengali cuisine or in today's jargon we can say a Bong cuisine but its roots are in Bangladesh.
Now the question arises that how this dish got imported to India? Well we all know that during the Independence of India our country had to pay a heavy price in the form of partition. Bangladesh formerly known as East Bengal became East Pakistan, a subordinate state under Pakistan in 1947. It was during this time many Hindus who were residing in Bangladesh emigrated into India. In such tumultuous times one such family that left its homeland for good and came to India was of my forefathers. The people who migrated to Bengal or the new formed state of West Bengal brought with them a rich culture and heritage. This influx of new culture into the existing tradition brought a new wave, a new perspective. Even the culinary world in West Bengal reached a new height with the amalgamation of these two distinct cultures. It was a start of new epoch in the history of Bengali Cuisine and since then there was no looking back and by now Bengali cuisine has become famous worldwide.
Like Kochu Shak, Doi Ilish one immensely popular Bangladeshi dish is Bhapa Chingri or Steamed Prawns in Mustard and Coconut Sauce. Being a riverine civilization Bangladeshi cuisines are rich in various types of fishes. Bangladeshi cuisine is replete with innumerable fish delicacies that no other race can boast of.
Ma's Special Recipe
When I proclaimed that this recipe is close to my heart then there must be some definite reason behind it. Well you can say I literally grew upon many such East Bengali delicacies. And the cook behind all such mouthwatering dishes is obviously my mom. My mom's a great cook and like every mumma to her little daughter she is my role model. From the time when I was a little kid I used to copy her a lot. The way she dressed, the way she kept everything in place, her keen observation on minute details, her way of making everything just PERFECT. All these qualities of hers helped me a lot to evolve as a woman later. Even at this age whenever I get stuck somewhere I seek my mom's help. She is my last hope whenever I am a damsel in distress. :)
My mom actually hailed from Hoogli which is and was always in West Bengal but was married to my father whose forefathers migrated from Faridpur in Bangladesh. So when she got married into this family there were definitely some cultural differences that she had to face but being a diligent learner she soon adapted to the new ways. I have never seen her complain about them rather she was quite happy that she got to learn so many new things. Initially we used to stay in a joint family and my mom being the bride of the youngest son in the family, got the opportunity to learn from her elder sister in laws. My grandma (my father's ma) died long before my mom got married into this family so it was left to my aunts to teach her the customs and traditions of our family.
This Steamed Prawn recipe is one such dish that she learnt from her sister in law. Later she mastered it so well that it became her signature dish. It is also one of my personal favorites. I must say the dish is very hot, very very hot due to generous use of mustard paste and mustard oil( it is definitely not a dish for the faint-hearts) yet it meticulously retains the flavors of prawns and each and every condiments used in it that a single taste of it will make you crave for more.
I have heard people go gaga over the Bengali dish Prawn Malaicurry but it is stands nowhere in taste and in degree of hotness if compared with Steamed Prawns in Coconut and Mustard Sauce.
I still remember the special Sunday lunches of my childhood where mom would solemnly announce before lunch to me that Bhapa Chingri is in the menu and I used to save a little more rice for that heavenly dish to complement it. I still remember how I used to bargain with Ma for another piece of prawn though I already consumed good 5 to 6 pieces myself. My mom used to scold "ebar shorir kharap korbe"( Now you will fall ill) but at last she had to accept defeat and had to give in to my constant persuasion. Winning that extra piece was like a victory to me then. I used to take a whole lot of time to consume that one piece. There was always a fear in me that it will end very soon so I used to just go on nibbling on that piece for almost an hour. Those were some days! My Happy Ol' Childhood. :)
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Easy Pictorial Guide to Help You Out
The cooking difficulty level is average. Only thing is that you have to follow the steps carefully. Obviously I will help you out. Before starting the procedure one thing to be noted is that this dish tastes awesome if you use big sized prawns but I could not manage to get them at that time. I bought a packet of cooked and deveined colossal shrimps from the local Walmart store and used them in my recipe.
Here I have used a primitive method of cooking that may appear a bit outdated but trust me this will help to bring out the exact taste of the dish.
Another thing is that I used a bit of modifications of my own at some places which I will definitely point out to you as I proceed further with my cooking.
Lastly, all the best and Happy Cooking!
- 11 Prawns, cleaned and deveined
- 1 Onion, diced (optional ingredient)
- 4 to 5 Green chili pepper, slit
- 4 tablespoons Mustard Seeds, black
- 1/2 cup Coconut flakes
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon Chili powder
- according to taste Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
- 1/2 cup Plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup Mustard Oil
- Soak mustard seeds in water with slit green chili peppers and a pinch of salt for about an hour before you grind them to paste. It is important to soak the seeds with salt and green chili before you paste or otherwise the paste may turn bitter. Care should be taken not to grind the seeds in a grinder for too long or else there is also a chance of the paste becoming bitter. After your paste is ready taste it a bit to see whether it has turned bitter or not (if it has turned bitter discard it).
- Marinate prawns with a pinch of salt, turmeric and red chili powder for about 1 hour.
- In a bowl mix well marinated prawns, yogurt, diced onions, green chili peppers, mustard paste, coconut flakes, salt, turmeric, sugar and mustard oil. (Here you may not add onions which I personally prefer to add flavor to the dish.)
- Next heat sufficient water in a wok. When the water starts boiling and bubbles have started coming out of the water place the bowl with prawn marinade in the boiling water. Put a lid on top of it. Secure it tightly. (On the other hand you can even use a tight lid stainless steel container to place the prawn marinade inside the boiling water). Reduce the heat to medium.
- After about half an hour open the lid of the container and you will notice that oil is floating on top of the container. Your steamed prawn is ready (Or you may do an additional step which is not essential but I usually do it.)
- Drain out the boiling water from the wok and place prawn curry on high heat for about 5 minutes. Then bring it off. Serve it with a dash of mustard oil and chopped chili peppers on top along with fuming hot Basmati rice. O! this is Heaven! Slurp!!
The soft meat of the prawn accompanying the sizzling aroma of the mustard and coconut sauce and not to forget the crunchy onions that you can munch on- all of these makes a perfect chemistry to turn your plate on fire on a special Sunday family lunch.
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What makes Steamed Prawns in Mustard and Coconut Sauce so hot?
© 2014 Deblina Banerjee