In a lot of regions across India coconut and seafood is a classic combination. The Bengali prawn curry ‘Chingri Malai’ uses prawns with coconut to make a truly sumptuous dish. Although ‘malai’ in hindi means cream the influences of this dish are known to have come from Malaysia (hence sometimes even known as ‘Malay Curry’)
This is a creamy curry, full of flavour with combinations of typical Bengali ingredients such as mustard, chilli and ginger. The sweetness of the prawns and coconut milk work really well the pungent hit from the chilli and ginger. I have used mustard oil and it’s something I would highly recommend you try; apart from a robust flavour it gives a yellow tinge to the curry. Mustard oil is commonly used in Indian pickles as it works as a natural preservative. The oil needs to be heated to a smoking point and cooled down before using.
If of course you can’t find mustard oil feel free to swap it for regular vegetable or sunflower oil.
Also you can swap freshly grated coconut for desiccated variety or leave it out completely if you wish. I like the slight texture and depth that it adds to a creamy curry. Large prawns are ideal for this dish as they hold their own lending a moist succulent flavour to the dish steeping in the spiced gravy.
Add the prawns to a bowl and mix in the turmeric and salt well. Set aside while you get the curry ready. In a blender add the onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies and grated coconut. Add a splash of water and blend to a smooth thick paste. Set the paste aside
In a frying pan add 2 tbsp of the oil and fry the prawns for a minute on each side. They will start to colour but don’t cook them all the way through. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the remaining oil add the green cardamom, cloves and bay leaves; fry for 30 seconds. Now tip in the onion paste and fry on a medium heat for 5-7 mins stirring frequently making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the chilli powder, sugar and salt. Stir for a further minute; add the coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil and simmer on a low heat. Add the prawns, simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve warm with boiled rice.