Cooking with Pree.... Oil Free Shorshe Bhaapa Chingri (prawns steamed in mustard)

Programming Note: The recipe is right at the end of the post

I went to the Khar fish market today. Thanks to my mother I have a new woman  now.

So if Pushpa (9819611625) and her mother run out of fish then I have Poonam (9867402956) to fall back on. Poonam sits towards the middle of the market. She comes with her mother and sister and has a dependable stock of fish.  I bought a medium sized Catla (Rs 120/ 3 USD a kilo) and a medium sized Hilsa (Rs 300/ 6 USD a kilo) from her with further discounts.

That's when I realised that I hadn't written a recipe post in a long while. Well I cooked something recently which I wanted to write about. Just that I didn't get time as I was tripping on Vintage Bombay and wanted to write about my adventures there.

So here's something that I cooked recently, shorshe bhaapa chingri (prawns steamed in mustard).

I chanced upon the recipe on Pree's excellent food blog, Preeoccupied. Pree is a Bengali who grew  up in Bihar and then Delhi. She is now settled at Toronto with her husband. She is the one person I know who updates her blog with an even more manic frequency than I do. What you would expect on her blog are a number of traditional Bengali recipes with very easy to make instructions geared for the modern kitchen. Complex dishes that you would never expect to find at Toronto. Makes you think that if Pree can do it at Toronto then I definitely can at Mumbai. Yeah right?! Hubris. She is a very good cook.

It would be be unfair to dub her blog as a 'Bengali' food blog as she writes about dishes from all over the country and even the world. Her posts come with a personal touch and give insights into the culture and folklore of a Nomadic Bengali. She often shares glimpses of her very artistically done up house which is featured on local decor magazines. She puts up some really fantastic food photographs. She has recently had some 'good news' in the grandmother sense of the word. I am sure she will make a great mom and that her baby will get to eat some gourmet gruel.

The reason why I have a soft spot for Pree is that she occasionally takes Bourdain's and my name in the same breath. Check out her post on her Blog friends and scroll down once you are done with the really good stuff. I have not met her yet but she definitely qualifies to be a Finely Chopped Knight just for this. 

Well this recipe is essentially hers with a few modifications from me. This is her original recipe for shorshe bhaapa chingri. Pree says that mustard oil is key to this dish. As it is to most Bengali dishes. I can't stand mustard oil. I was planning to use a drizzle of olive oil but I forgot. So I ended up making an oil free new age dish through serendipity.

I give a lot of weight to Pree's suggestions. The first time I made a Bengali pulao, rather successfully, was by using her recipe and her answers to my questions. Her shorshe chingri called for 20 min in the micro. I was a bit sceptical as I felt the prawns would get overcooked. Pree suggested 17 m. I ended up with 11 min. I planned to check to see if it was done after ten min. It was.

Pree's recipe called for curd. I was afraid that the curd would curdle. Pree said that it wouldn't if I added the curd in the beginning and not when it was hot. I listened to her. She was right. It didn't curdle. Just a mild graininess which went once I stirred this dish. This added to the texture of the sauce. Pree felt that even this mild curdling wouldn't have happened if I had put some oil. This apparently would have added some moisture. I am willing to go with her on this. The photos on her blog are proof enough of her magic ladle. I tempered down the spice mix as K can't handle the sort of mustard frenzy that Bengalis can.

Well without further ado is my take on Pree's recipe for shorshe chingri:

  • Marinade: 1 tablespoon each of posto (poppy seeds/ khus khus) and whole mustard seeds + 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder ground together in a mixer. To this add two tablespoons of whipped curd, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 green chillies ground into a paste.

  • Cover 250 g of prawns with  the marinade and put into a microwave bowl and keep for 5 to 20 min
  • Put into micro and switch it on for 11 minutes. (you can try doing it for 15 minutes. Let me know if gets rubbery)
  • Finished.  Take it out and gently stir so that the creamy sauce blends in

  • Eat this, as Pree says, with steamed rice