Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Changri Tarkari (Bengali Shrimp Curry)

My five-year old son absolutely loves 'Gambas al Ajillo', a Spanish shrimp dish, where the shrimp is cooked in abundant olive oil, with a generous amount of thinly sliced garlic, some dried red chilies, and parsley. We do too. So every time I buy shrimp, we eat 'Gambas al Ajillo'.
But today I craved a Shrimp Curry. Aditya Bals cookbook, Chakh Le India had this recipe which looked delicious— exactly what I wanted— spicy and tangy. 
A chat with my dear Chef Bengali friend Meera, had me sharing her Panch Poran, or Bengali five-spice mixture, and hence a delicious dinner on the table. Meera said that some desire a deeper, more reddish color. That can be achieved by 'bhunaoing' it for longer (steps no. 3 & 4), however, we were happy with this deep-turmeric color.

4 servings

1 lb medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)

1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

The Curry Base
1 tablespoon oil ((preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon Bengali five-spice mix (equal quantities of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds)
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, split
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely minced
3 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, sliced very thin
Salt, to taste
2 cups water, hot

Juice of 1/2 lime
3–4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

  1. Marinate the shrimp. Set aside. Prep the other ingredients.
  2. In a large flat-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the shrimps, on both sides, until almost cooked through. Remove on a plate. 
  3. In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of oil. Fry the whole spices until fragrant, be careful not to burn, about 30 seconds— 1 minute. Add the onions, salt to taste, and mix well. The salt will help the onions cook faster by letting its water out. Brown the onions, by using the ‘bhuno’* method.
  4. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the powdered spices, and let it cook until the oil separates. This is a clear indicator that the spices have cooked and released its natural oils. Continue to ‘bhuno’ for 5 more minutes, to get a deeper color.
  5. Add the tomatoes, and once the oil separates, pour in the hot water. Stir the curry a few times, till the oil surfaces again and the curry is perfectly cooked. 
  6. Immerse the shrimp along with all their resting juices into the simmering curry. Stir the shrimp gently and poach them to a juicy tenderness for 6–8 minutes. Simmer the curry uncovered to reduce it a little.
  7. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice, which will amazingly lift the whole curry perfectly. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over white Basmati rice.

This is a fundamental cooking technique used in Indian cuisine. Spices, herbs, and aromatics are sautéed over high heat, till they are toasted and intensely aromatic. A little liquid is then added to deglaze the pan and blend the ingredients well. Once most of the liquid evaporates, the process is repeated, till the aromatic spice base is homogenous and the oil rises to the top, signifying that the masala is properly cooked.

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