I am here with my first post of 2017, and this is a very special Bengali recipe. This Chingri Maacher Chatni (Sweet and Sour Bengali Chutney with Prawns) is one of those old-school Bengali recipes which is class apart. In Bengali cuisine, a chatni or chutney is generally sweet, or sweet and sour. It is eaten as the last course of the meal. The chutney has to be eaten at room temperature. Bengali chutneys are generally vegetarian, with an exception of a few fish-based chutneys that are still popular. Although I have heard about the Ilish Maacher Maathar Ambol (a sweet-n-sour chutney using Hilsa or Ilish fish heads) and Mourola Maacher Tok (sour chutney of small river fish named Mourola), I have not come across Chingri Maacher Chatni yet. Although this prawn chutney was popular in Bengal during olden days, it is perhaps slowly getting wiped out from the pages of Bengali cuisine. Since Chingri Maacher Chatni is one of the lesser known Bengali recipes, I am happy to share this age-old chutney recipe which tastes so good that there are chances that you will probably end up making this often! Once I made this chutney recently, everyone at home has asked me to cook it again. Well, now it is for you to judge if it tastes better than my Chingri Maacher Malai Curry recipe or not. But one thing I can assure you that this is a very flavourful Bengali dish in itself, which deserves to be preserved. This is a must-try among the lesser known recipes of Bengal.
Since this is consumed in the last course of a non-vegetarian Bengali meal, the Chingri Maacher Chatni is eaten in moderation. This Chatni has to be consumed within a few hours, just for the simple reason that on keeping the Chatni for more than almost four hours, the acidity of the tamarind works on the protein in the prawns and changes its texture.
One word of advice. Never cook a sour dish in an aluminium cookware, as the acid reacts with the metal and releases toxins into the food. However, cooking sour dishes in anodised aluminium, steel, non-stick, clay pot or an earthen pot is preferable.
Chingri Maacher Chatni (Sweet and Sour Bengali Chutney with Prawns)
- Small prawns heads removed and de-veined: 750 g
- Sugar: 2 tsp
- Mustard seeds: 1/4 tsp
- Salt: 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
- Paanch Phoron: 1.5 tsp
- Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
- Dry red chillies: 2
- Mustard oil: 4 tbsp
- Tamarind pulp: 1/2 cup
- Warm water: 2 teacups
- Marinate the prawns with half the amount of salt and turmeric powder, respectively, for 10 min. Lightly fry and keep aside.
- In a “non-reactive” Kadhai, add oil and let it smoke. Add the mustard seeds.
- When the mustard seeds sputter, add a mixture of tamarind pulp, sugar, rest of the salt, the remaining turmeric powder and 1/2 cup water.
- When the contents of the Kadhai come to a boil, add the fried prawns and simmer the flame. Sauté for 2 min and then add the remaining warm water. Just bring this to a boil.
- Sprinkle the freshly roasted and coarsely ground powder of cumin seeds, red chillies and Paanch Phoron. Give the contents of the Kadhai a good mix and switch off the flame.
- Immediately transfer the Chatni into a non-aluminum serving bowl. Allow to cool at room temperature and serve it at the end of a Bengali meal, with steamed rice.
- The _Chatni_is best consumed within a day. On standing for almost more than 24 hours, the acidity of the tamarind changes the texture of the prawns.