The word Kaliya comes from the word Qaliyan and has many versions across India. The Bengali Kaliya is a mildly spiced one.
I remember eating this light and balanced Chingri Kalia since my childhood days. My mother made Chingri Kalia with either jumbo or medium-sized prawns atleast once in a week. I would often accompany my father to buy the fresh catch from the local fishmonger in Gole Market, New Delhi, who would always give us the best fish. Golda Chingri or jumbo prawns are a favourite in my paternal family. Among the many fancy Bengali Golda Chingri recipes that were often made by Ma, this Chingri Kalia was the most comforting of all. Even today, we love it more than Shorshe Chingri, Chingri Bhaape or Chingri Paturi. It is light, yet spicy. It is rustic, yet easy on stomach.
Plump jumbo prawns are pure pleasure! This Kaliya is a no-fail recipe that you must try sometime.
My younger sister and I would take our own sweet time to eat the Chingri Kalia. Also, there was something about the potato in that prawn curry. When mashed with rice along with the jhol of the Kalia, it would elevate the flavours to the next level. We always ended up overeating, taking double the amount of rice. Admittedly, my sister and I would eat like a glutton and thankfully, our age permitted us to do so. We hardly cared whether we were eating a high-calorie diet because anyways we were underweight at that time. Unlike today, we could eat all the comfort foods in good amounts. Biting into the soft meat of the prawns, we would close our eyes and relish each morsel. And then we would dig out the softer meat from inside the head of the prawns. Sometimes it would have the orangish ghilu or brain, which would double-up the flavour. Chewing that and the encompassing meat around the head was pure joy, as it had loads of extra meat with so much flavour! Luckily, Ma would always keep aside a few extra Golda Chingri and the Chingri Kalia for she knew that one of us or both would definitely ask for a second helping.
Chingri Kalia was our prize when we scored good marks in the exams. Of course, there were a host of other dishes to make us happy. But Chingri Kalia was synonymous to celebration. It made our regular days special, too! Here’s my recipe of the light Bengali Chingri Kaliya.
Chingri Kalia (Bengali-Style Prawn Curry)
- Jumbo prawns (Golda Chingri in Bengali): 6
- Salt (for marination and Kaliya): 2 tsp
- Potato (big-sized): 1 (sliced)
- Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
- Cumin seeds: ¼ tsp
- Bay leaf: 1
- Cinnamon: ½ inch
- Cloves: 4
- Green cardamoms: 4
- Freshly roasted cumin powder: 1 tsp
- Medium-sized onion (grated): ½
- Medium-sized onion (finely chopped): 1
- Garlic (minced): ½ tsp
- Ginger paste: ½ tsp
- Tomato (finely chopped): 1.5
- Mustard oil: ½ of a measuring cup
- Warm water
- Devein the prawns and keep the head intact. Marinate with half the amount of turmeric powder and salt. Keep it aside for 20 min.
- Heat mustard oil and allow it to reach its smoking point. Reduce the flame.
- Add the marinated prawns, but don’t overcrowd the cooking vessel. Cover.
- Fry for 2 min on each side, making sure to apply little pressure on the head in order to ensure that the insides of the head get cooked.
- Remove the prawns and keep aside.
- In the same oil, fry the potatoes (sprinkling some salt over them) to a brownish hue. Remove the potatoes and keep aside.
- Add bay leaf, cumin seeds the whole Garam Masala (cinnamon, green cardamoms and cloves). When the cumin seeds turn light brown, add the cumin powder and turmeric powder dissolved in little water. Sauté continuously until oil separates.
- Add the finely chopped onions and the rest of the salt. Sauté till the onions are soft and the water in the cooking vessel is almost evaporated. Add the minced garlic, ginger paste and grated onions now. Continue sautéing till the mixture releases oil on the sides.
- Add the tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 min, until tomatoes are mushy. Add the fried potatoes. Sauté carefully so that the mixture gets coated with potatoes and the potatoes don’t break in the process.
- Add the fried prawns and sauté for 2 min.
- Add warm water, just enough to cover the prawns. Give the mixture a gentle stir.
- Cover and let the Kaliya come to a boil on a medium flame. Reduce the flame and continue boiling for 5 min. Remove into a serving dish and enjoy with steamed rice.
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