Chingri Macher Malai Curry (Bengali Prawn Curry with Coconut)

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Chingri Macher Malai Curry (Bengali prawn curry with coconut).

Undoubtedly, Chingri Macher Malai Curry or Chingri Malai Curry is among one of my favourite Bengali dishes. A curry cooked with Chingri Mach (a common Bengali term used for lobsters, prawns or shrimps) is generally a part of the Bengali menu, especially on occasions such as the Noboborsho or Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year). Be it jumbo prawns or small shrimps, Bengalis love to include them in their cooking in myriad ways. There are traditional dishes where shrimps are cooked with bottle gourd (lau chingri) or cabbage (badhakopir ghonto chingri mach diye). Sometimes these are steamed with mustard paste in a banana leaf parcel (chingri paturi), whereas sometimes these are cooked with chopped banana flowers (mocha chingri) or cooked in an awesome chutney base (chingri macher chatni)!

coconut paste for chingri macher malai curry

Coconut paste is used in the preparation of Chingri Macher Malai Curry. We might find replacing with coconut milk as an easy option, but the texture of the curry would be different in that case.

So we Bengalis, who are one of the hardcore fish-eating communities in India, love gorging on chingri, among others. Since today was the Bengali New Year or the Noboborsho, I thought it was the perfect time to make this authentic lobster curry with coconut. The Chingri Macher Malai Curry is one of the Bengali regal dishes, just fit for those special days when you feel like eating like a King, and surprisingly, without going overboard on spices!

A bit about the history of the Chingri Macher Malai Curry. Some people believe that this dish has a Malaysian influence and the early version of the recipe might have been bought by Malaysian sailors to the Bay of Bengal, many years ago. The word “Malai” is actually “Malay”, meaning Malaysian. The use of coconut paste or milk in curries across Asia is one common thread among the cuisines. Interestingly, Malai in Hindi means “milk cream”, but the dish doesn’t use milk cream. So, it is apparent that Malai is the distorted way of saying “Malay”. But, this is just one school of thought.

Now, there is no single recipe for the perfect Malai curry. Different Bengali families use slightly (and sometimes, hugely) different recipes. Some add cashewnut paste, garam masala powder and/or tomatoes in this, but I don’t. Some may not like to add a little mustard paste, raisin paste and ghee, but I do. Some add coconut milk, but I prefer freshly scraped coconut paste. These are certain factors which make one Malai curry taste quite different than the other, but at the end of the day, the best Malai curry is the one which is rich, creamy and doesn’t taste too spicy, and only then will the flavor of the shrimp or prawn be at its epitome!

This Bengali (Indian) dish tastes majestic with jumbo prawns or lobsters, with heads intact, but you can replace with any kind of shrimp for a regular curry. Mustard oil is the recommended oil, as it adds great flavor to this dish, but if you don’t find this oil, replace with any good oil with high smoking point. The black-mustard-seed paste used in this recipe is ground with a pinch of salt and half a green chilli to remove bitterness. The black skins are then removed by passing the paste through a fine wire mesh or muslin cloth. The yellow paste is used for this recipe.

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Chingri Macher Malai Curry (Bengali Prawn Curry with Coconut)

Chingri Macher Malai Curry (Bengali Prawn Curry with Coconut)

  • Jumbo prawns or lobsters, with the skin over the heads and tails being intact (deveined): 4 (medium-sized)
    Freshly scraped coconut paste: ¾ cup
  • Turmeric powder (for marination): ¾ tsp
  • Salt (for marination): ¾ tsp
  • Mustard oil: ½ cup
  • Onion (very finely chopped): 1 cup
  • Ginger paste: ¾ tsp
  • Freshly made black-mustard-seed paste: 1.5 tsp
  • Whole dried bay leaf: 1 (big)
  • Whole cinnamon (cassia bark): 1 (one-inch stick)
  • Whole green cardamoms: 4
  • Raisin paste: 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: ¼ tsp
  • Red chilli powder: ½ tsp
  • Cumin powder: ¾ tsp
  • Turmeric powder (for the curry): ½ tsp
  • Salt (for the curry): ¾ tsp (or according to taste)
  • Granulated sugar: ¼ tsp
  • Ghee(Indian clarified butter): 1 tsp
  • Green chillies: 4
  • Water: 1 cup

Marinate the lobsters (or jumbo prawns) for atleast 15 min, with turmeric powder and salt.

marinated lobsters or jumbo prawns for the chingri macher malai curry

The lobsters are marinated with turmeric powder and salt for atleast 15 min.

Heat oil in a kadai or a pan. When it starts smoking, reduce the flame to medium and introduce the lobsters carefully and close the lid immediately to prevent sputtering. After 1 min, turn the lobsters and fry the other side for another minute. Remove the lobsters from the oil.

Chingri mach or jumbo prawns fry

The marinated lobsters being fried in mustard oil.

In the same hot oil, add the bay leaf, whole cinnamon (cassia bark), green cardamoms and wait for a few seconds. Add the cumin seeds and let these seeds turn light brown. Add the chopped onion and half the salt (for the curry). Sauté for 7 min, or until the onion looks golden-brown and soft.

frying the spices in oil for the prawn curry  or chingri macher malai curry

Add the turmeric and the cumin powders, combined with 4 tbsp water. Sauté continuouslyto prevent burning of the powders. Add the ginger paste and sauté again, sprinkling a little water if the onion mixture starts sticking to the pan. After 5 min, add the rest of the salt, sugar, red chilli powder, black-mustard-seed paste, raisin paste and coconut paste and sauté till the mixture starts separating from the oil.

coconut paste added to the wok

We saute-ed the mixture till oil started separating: an important step in Bengali cooking.

At this stage, add the fried lobsters and sauté for 5 min at a simmered flame. Add whole green chillies and ¾ cup of water. Let the curry boil for 10 min, simmered and covered. Before serving, add the ghee to the curry.

putting the prawns in curry

Chingri Malai Curry is best served with steamed rice.

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  • GratefulPrayerThankfulHeart

    Such a beautiful presentation and I know it must taste wonderful!

  • Shobha

    Wow .. mouth-watering preparation..

  • Amelia

    Hi Purabi, your king prawn curry look superb. Love the gravy, it look so good, I don’t mind to have extra rice, please. LOL

    What a coincident, I post prawn curry in my blog too. :))
    Have a nice week ahead,regards.

  • Rosita Vargas

    Se ve irresistible me encanta muy muy rico,abrazos y abrazos.

  • Belinda

    Ooo, I can almost smell it! I love Malaysian food because of those multi-dimensional influences.

    • Probuddho

      this is an indian dish particularly bengali dish not an malaysian dish

      • hussain

        Probuddho, if you were to read PN’s foreword on this dish, you’d know where Belinda is coming from. I’m a Singaporean of Bengali descent. I can tell you for a fact that coconut isn’t as big an ingredient in Bengali cooking as it is in Malaysian, Thai or Indonesian food. Besides, these ASEAN countries have been exposed to a wide variety of culinary influences from all over Asia and indeed the world so much so we have in this region a mind-boggling spread of choices. If you were to try Malaysian and Indonesian deserts you’ll know for a fact that coconut is widely used as is with banana leaf and fruit and a particular leaf called ‘pandan’ in Malay, which gives such a sweet aromatic flavour. I love their desserts and and many of their dishes such as rendang, asam pedas etc. With such a wide choice of cuisines, my wife and I still do get bored and lost as to what to have for our meals. PS. PN, my wife is a Filipina and she loves to cook and experiment with new dishes. My little daughter is a huge fan of her mum’s cooking. She cooked this dish today. She did not refer to your recipe but some other’s on youtube. I show her your ingredients and she said it’s almost all there. My daughter had 2 full plates of rice and would have had another if we did not stop her and she’s only seven. That says a lot, doesn’t it?

        • Purabi Naha

          Thank you Hussain for such wonderful feedback! Hope your wife will try out one of my recipes as well!

  • Hamaree Rasoi

    Shubho Noboborsho to you Purabi. The malai kari dekhte phataphati hoyeche. Wonderfully prepared.

    • Purabi Naha

      Thanks Deepa. Tomakeo janalam, Shubho Noboborsho!

  • Priya R

    what lovely fat prawns :) wish I can get hold of such big ones here :) lovely flavors the idea of coconut and prawn I think will never go wrong

  • Maha Gadde

    Delicious combination, looks tempting!

  • Phong Hong

    Purabi, this curry will have all the prawn lovers all excited!

  • Meena Kumar

    Ahhaa Purabi… that looks like seafood heaven… !!!

  • Beena.stephy

    Tempting dish

  • easyfoodsmith

    Hi Purabi! The dish looks very tempting and delicious.

  • wok with ray

    Wow! What a beautiful and delectable dish, Purabi! Curry and coconut with these meaty prawns — amazing! :)

  • Denise Browning@From Brazil To You

    Purabi: I had no idea about this wonderful Bengali seafood curry. The coconut paste and all the spices that are in really gives the dish a distinct, one-of-a-kind flavor. I imagine that when the seafood is steamed with chopped banana flowers, it becomes a bit sweeter and floral, isn’t it?

    • Purabi Naha

      Denise, banana flowers aren’t that much floral but a little sweet. Actually, before processing, these are sticky and sometimes slightly bitter as well. There is a special (and very easy) way of chopping and soaking the banana flowers, which make them less sticky to handle. When the dish is cooked, the flowers are no more bitter or sticky and taste great (and full of iron in them as a bonus)!

  • Kitchen Riffs

    Great dish! I love seafood curries, and love that there are many possible variations on this dish – more to taste and test! This looks spectacular. I hope you had a great New Year celebration! Really informative post – thanks so much.

    • Purabi Naha

      Thanks for the nice words, Kitchen Riffs!

  • Eha

    Fascinating recipe quite different from most seafood ‘curries’ I use :) ! Cannot wait to try!!!

  • Mélange

    My God,nothing can beat this Purabi..I loved the way you presented..Drooling here.

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Whoa! Large flavorful prawns!!! No one can resist this deliciousness, Purabi! :) I love coconut. I should use it more in my cooking!

    • Purabi Naha

      Thank you dear Nami! I love lobsters too, and since these are expensive, I make only those recipes with these, which I am triply sure for the taste! This is an authentic prawn curry, made in special occassions or for special guests. :)

  • Cheap Ethnic Eatz

    This is the most amazing curry Purabi, it looks just so wonderful and delicious. Never saw lobster in such a recipe before. Glad to discover your blog too!

    • Purabi Naha

      Thanks, Cheap Ethnic Eatz! This is one of those Bengali dishes, which is simply flawless. I really find it so interesting everytime I make this curry… it’s out-of-the-world and yet, not-so-spicy!! :)

  • Kim | a little lunch

    Lobster is my favorite seafood and coconut is a favorite sweet. Sigh… you’ve done it again, Purabi!

    • Purabi Naha

      Awww….thanks, Kimby! :)

  • Bam’s Kitchen

    Looks amazing. I love your delicious curry sauce with coconut. Your photography is amazing. I think all of your curries are made with love.

  • Deepak

    Hey Purabi

    Tried this recipe of yours , its mind blowing. At first I thought its too much work, but when I actually started; it was just matter of minutes.

    I have tasted chingri malai curry in many bengali restaurants as well but this one was the best, its just out of this world.

    Your recipes are going in my bookmark :D

    Thanks again :)

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  • raj pras

    Hi Purabi, can I use Kasundi as a mustard seed paste? Regards

    • Purabi Naha

      Hi Raj, yes you can. But in that case, adjust the salt and sugar accordingly, as kasundi is salty.

      • raj pras

        Noted. I served this dish at a party over the weekend and it was a huge hit. Many thanks!

        I lived in Mumbai till 2002 and like all Calcuttans missed the food. I hope things are better now.

        Any chance of a Cal biryani?

  • Kathleen

    Hi Purabi, please advise how to make this black mustard seed paste. I made a fish curry with mustard seed and it turned out very bitter. Thanks in advance

    • Purabi Naha

      Kathleen, you have to grind the mustard seeds with a pinch or two of salt and one green chilli. First grind it dry and then add a little water to make a fine paste. You can use this paste strained or unstrained. I prefer strained. Please keep this paste covered and use it immediately. If it stays for a long time, it turns bitter. Hope this helps! :)

    • Purabi Naha

      Kathleen, add a pinch or two of salt and one small, green chilli when you dry-grind the seeds. After that add a little water and grind again to make a fine paste. You can filter this paste or leave it as it is. I prefer the former one. Please use this paste immediately. It turns bitter on standing. Hope this helps, Kathleen.

  • Amrita Chaudhuri Shyama

    hats off to u