Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiger Prawns Prowling in Malai Curry

This one was discovered while roaming the streets in Kolkatta at a little known (by me at least) restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace - in Kolkatta. (I didn't spend too many days in the town). The point is that this little known restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace in Kokatta served a dish that has me smiling wistfully at the memory as I type this nearly a month later.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - "Tiger Prawn Malai Curry". It comprises of succulent jumbo prawns in a pristine white curry that gives you no inkling as to the delicacy and depth of its flavour. That you discover only when you shovel in the first mouthful along with rice. Then you start drooling all over the table and desperately demanding of the maitre'd - "Coconut Milk! It is coconut milk isn't it?". Alarmed, the maitre'd asks you to get a grip on yourself - "Calm down, calm down lady. Yes, it is coconut milk. It's anything you want it to be" .

With that as my first clue, I started researching the net for ways to recreate the experience at home. Sure enough, most recipes started out with coconut milk, but the photos showed not one trace of the pristine white colour, quite the opposite in fact. So, I do the only logical thing I can think of - leave out all ingredients that would add more than a slight suspicion of colour to the curry or substitute with neutral hued alternatives. Red chili, for example, makes way for single whole green chili. The onions are not browned, they are made into a paste. Turmeric powder is a strict no no. Garam masala powder is allowed because it disappears into the depths of the curry, adding flavour, but leaving no trace of colour. The other ingredients would be garlic paste, fresh garlic paste if you please, salt and the biggest prawns that you can get hold of.

Malai? Interesting that you should ask that, I was wondering along the same lines too and the explanation is simple really. Around 2 centuries ago (or is it 3 now), the British landed on our shores. The East India company was not their only import. They also brought along with them "Prawn Malay curry" from Malaysia. (I'm not perfectly sure what they were doing in Malaysia in the first place. Perhaps they made a pit stop on their way over to India.) Well then, in India, the "Malay" became "Malai" and that basically explains the utter lack of any actual malai in the curry.

The dish assembles really fast once you are done prepping your ingredients. First add a green chili, slit down the middle, to oil in a kadhai on fire. That adds a little zing and starts things rolling. Next goes in the onion paste and garlic paste. A dash of garam masala, saute a bit, some salt, and pour in two small tetra packs of coconut milk for 250gm of prawn. Speaking of prawns, I like to fry them a bit, just a little bit, beforehand with lemon and salt mixed in. This is to get rid of any odour that might later bother you. That pretty much wraps up the dish. Add the prawns to the curry, let it simmer a bit and you are good to go.

I do believe, I'm close to recreating the Kol curry. So far Sushi and me and Mrs DP have sampled it and given it a thumbs up. I'd say it's pretty safe to try if you are not one of those unfortunate people who are allergic to sea food.

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