From KL to Kolkata... Deconstructing Prawn Malai Curry

The thought of cooking a regional Indian dish is scary to most guys. These dishes they are often considered to be too complex to try out. Best seen on TV programmes on food or on restaurant menu cards. Rarely attempted at home.

So how does this sound as a starting point to tackle the culinary demons in your head? A Bengali classic which traces its origins to a century back when Bengalis used to work in Malaysia during the time of the British. Would you care to try a bit of a sociological experiment in the kitchen by trying to recreate this slice of history?

What I can assure you is that the Bengali Prawn Malai curry is pretty easy to cook and bound to impress anyone you serve it to. And, in case you are wondering, malai doesn’t refer to cream. It’s a transmogrification of the word Malay. Yes, the heart of the ‘Bengali’ malai curry lies in the curries of Malaysia.

So here’s the recipe (for 2):

Ingredients:

  • 250 g prawn,
  • 1.5 tablspoons salt,
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric,
  • 1 tablespoon whole garam masala,
  • 2 bay leaves,
  • 1 dry red chillies,
  • ½ teaspoon whole cumin (jeera) seeds,
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, paste of 1 red onion,
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, paste of half a tomato,
  • 1 teaspoon each of red chilli, garam masala, coriander & cumin (optional) powders & sugar,
  • 2 green chillies,
  • 200 ml coconut milk tetra pack
  • Preparation

  • Take 250 g of prawns. Important to get the shopkeeper to devein it if fresh. Or buy frozen deveined frozen prawns (Deveining prawns yourself is back breaking)
  • Smear the prawns with a ½ a teaspoon each of turmeric and of salt
  • Fry them in hot oil for not more than two minutes. You want the fishy smell to go but you don't want the prawns to overcook and become tough. The fish or seafood is often fried first before putting into curries in Bengali cooking
  • Curry
  • Take a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan and heat it
  • Put in some whole garam masala (3,4 pieces each of cardamom, Cinnamon bits and cloves), a couple of bay leaves, whole jeera seeds and a couple of dry red chillies into the hot oil
  • Wait till these splutter and the aroma of the masala comes out
  • Add in a paste of one onion. Stir and cover with a lid as a lot of steam will come out
  • Add a tablespoon of ginger paste once the onion begins to brown and stir
  • Add paste/ puree of half a tomato. Stir (this is optional)
  • Add 1 teaspoon each of coriander (dhaniya) powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, sugar, salt and stir. I add a teaspoon of cumin (jeera) powder too though most Bengali houses don’t
  • Add the coconut milk
  • Stir the sauce till it bubbles a bit
  • Reduce the flame and add the prawns. Add a bit more coconut milk if you want some more sauce. You can add water if you want a thinner gravy.
  • Let it cook for two minutes and take the dish off the pan. Let the prawn stand in the hot gravy for a few minutes more. It is important not to overcook prawns
  • Garnish with a couple of split green chillies
  • This is best had with plain, steamed rice and green chillies on the side.

    You can pair this dish with Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity in this wine will pair well with the dish and balance the sweet flavor of fresh Prawns in Malia sauce.

    Article and photos by – Kalyan Karmakar

    Kalyan Karmakar will travel to any lengths for a good meal starting with to his own kitchen. He is a consumer insights and social media specialist. He documents his food and travel stories in his blog www.finelychopped.net He considers it his life’s mission to give men the confidence to cook so that they don’t have to depend on anyone else to eat well. He lives in Mumbai.

    Follow him - @finelychopped

    Four Seasons Recommends -

    four seasons food pairing

    You can pair this dish with Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity in this wine will pair well with the dish and balance the sweet flavor of fresh Prawns in Malia sauce.

    From KL to Kolkata... Deconstructing Prawn Malai Curry

    Kalyan Karmakar

    The thought of cooking a regional Indian dish is scary to most guys. These dishes they are often considered to be too complex to try out. Best seen on TV programmes on food or on restaurant menu cards. Rarely attempted at home.

    So how does this sound as a starting point to tackle the culinary demons in your head? A Bengali classic which traces its origins to a century back when Bengalis used to work in Malaysia during the time of the British. Would you care to try a bit of a sociological experiment in the kitchen by trying to recreate this slice of history?

    What I can assure you is that the Bengali Prawn Malai curry is pretty easy to cook and bound to impress anyone you serve it to. And, in case you are wondering, malai doesn’t refer to cream. It’s a transmogrification of the word Malay. Yes, the heart of the ‘Bengali’ malai curry lies in the curries of Malaysia.

    So here’s the recipe (for 2):

    Ingredients:

  • 250 g prawn,
  • 1.5 tablspoons salt,
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric,
  • 1 tablespoon whole garam masala,
  • 2 bay leaves,
  • 1 dry red chillies,
  • ½ teaspoon whole cumin (jeera) seeds,
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, paste of 1 red onion,
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, paste of half a tomato,
  • 1 teaspoon each of red chilli, garam masala, coriander & cumin (optional) powders & sugar,
  • 2 green chillies,
  • 200 ml coconut milk tetra pack
  • Preparation

  • Take 250 g of prawns. Important to get the shopkeeper to devein it if fresh. Or buy frozen deveined frozen prawns (Deveining prawns yourself is back breaking)
  • Smear the prawns with a ½ a teaspoon each of turmeric and of salt
  • Fry them in hot oil for not more than two minutes. You want the fishy smell to go but you don't want the prawns to overcook and become tough. The fish or seafood is often fried first before putting into curries in Bengali cooking
  • Curry
  • Take a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan and heat it
  • Put in some whole garam masala (3,4 pieces each of cardamom, Cinnamon bits and cloves), a couple of bay leaves, whole jeera seeds and a couple of dry red chillies into the hot oil
  • Wait till these splutter and the aroma of the masala comes out
  • Add in a paste of one onion. Stir and cover with a lid as a lot of steam will come out
  • Add a tablespoon of ginger paste once the onion begins to brown and stir
  • Add paste/ puree of half a tomato. Stir (this is optional)
  • Add 1 teaspoon each of coriander (dhaniya) powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, sugar, salt and stir. I add a teaspoon of cumin (jeera) powder too though most Bengali houses don’t
  • Add the coconut milk
  • Stir the sauce till it bubbles a bit
  • Reduce the flame and add the prawns. Add a bit more coconut milk if you want some more sauce. You can add water if you want a thinner gravy.
  • Let it cook for two minutes and take the dish off the pan. Let the prawn stand in the hot gravy for a few minutes more. It is important not to overcook prawns
  • Garnish with a couple of split green chillies
  • This is best had with plain, steamed rice and green chillies on the side.

    You can pair this dish with Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity in this wine will pair well with the dish and balance the sweet flavor of fresh Prawns in Malia sauce.

    Article and photos by – Kalyan Karmakar

    Kalyan Karmakar will travel to any lengths for a good meal starting with to his own kitchen. He is a consumer insights and social media specialist. He documents his food and travel stories in his blog www.finelychopped.net He considers it his life’s mission to give men the confidence to cook so that they don’t have to depend on anyone else to eat well. He lives in Mumbai.

    Follow him - @finelychopped

    Four Seasons Recommends -

    four seasons food pairing

    You can pair this dish with Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity in this wine will pair well with the dish and balance the sweet flavor of fresh Prawns in Malia sauce.

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