January 29, 2013

Chingri Malaikari (Scampi in a creamy coconut milk gravy)

The bangals (people originally from erstwhile East Bengal) say nothing can match the heavenly and exquisite taste Bhapa Illish and Shorshe Illish (Hilsha in coconut mustard gravy). The ghatis (people originally from West Bengal) want Chingri macher malaikari (scampi in a coconut gravy) to celebrate every occasion. Is it the fragrant flavorful Hilsha fish or the meaty scampi, which one is the best? This question has given rise to many friendly-heated debates. Yet it remains without an answer. As for me, give me a plate of any of the dishes, and I am a happy Bengali. The delicate fragrant oily Hilsha nestled in coconut-mustard gravy, steamed, a slender green chili adding to its flavor – it is truly the queen of fishes and dishes. The succulent scampi in the thick creamy coconut milk with the delicate flavor of fresh young coconut – it is the majestic king. Who cares which one is best, I am lucky to enjoy both of them. Hilsha is almost next to impossible to get here, so it was time for celebrating the scampi. Malai meaning cream, chingri malaikari is a creamy curry in coconut milk. This is what I cooked a while back for some festive occasion. And wow, is that what is as called ‘heaven on plate’. It was delicate. It was rich and yet with subtle play of flavors. It was savory with just a hint of sweetness. It was there, enticing, in its creamy richness. And I am quite a bit proud to say that it was the best ever chingri malaikari I have cooked or even tasted. What a royal and delicious way of celebrating!

You can print the recipe for your kitchen here: PRINTABLE RECIPE

(Serves 2)

350g scampi
1 large onion
1-2 clove garlic
1 inch ginger
2-3 green chilies
1-2 bay leaves
4-5 green cardamom
4-5 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1sp sugar
4tbsp freshly grated coconut
400ml coconut milk
1/2sp red chili powder
Turmeric powder

  1. Shell and devein the scampi and clean them well. Rub the scampi with a pinch of turmeric and salt.
  2. Heat ghee in a wok. Fry the scampi in batches until golden.
  3. In the meantime, coarsely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies. In a separate wok, heat a 1tbsp of ghee. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili. Fry until the onion is translucent and golden. Remove from pan and blend everything into a smooth paste.
  4. In the same wok used for frying scampi, add a bit more ghee and heat. Add the bay leaves, cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon stick.
  5. When the nice fragrance comes out, add a spoon of sugar. Let it caramelize.
  6. Add the coconut powder. Fry until golden.
  7. Add the onion-ginger-garlic-chili paste. Add red chili powder and a pinch of turmeric. Fry on medium heat stirring well until it starts leaving oil at sides.
  8. Remove from heat and let it cool for a minute. Add the coconut milk. (Do not add the coconut milk in very hot wok).
  9. Put the wok back on medium heat. Bring the coconut milk to boil and reduce it to a creamy consistency. Cook until the oil from the coconut milk starts floating on top.
  10. Add the fried scampi and give a stir. Cook for a couple of minutes more. Serve with steaming rice.

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