Abhinanda was one of the first Bengali hosts that we brought on board in Mumbai. Her warm home reflects the rich art, music, literature and philosophy of the Bengali culture. She enjoys hosting parties for friends and family and she loves sharing her food stories – especially those that include her grandmother. It makes her very happy to share dishes that she learnt from her dida (‘grandmother’ in Bengali).
This dish is full of family memories from Bangladesh, where the family lived before partition. It is called Daab Chingri (daab means ‘tender coconut’ and chingri means ‘prawns’).
Abhinanda says, “My dida would say that in their days they would mix all the ingredients together, stuff it into the tender coconut and place it under the earth. The prawn would cook in the earth’s heat and carry flavours and fragrances from its rustic surroundings.” Though she has since modernized the dish some, she still looks to the sky every time she cooks it and salutes her dida.
1 tender coconut
1 brown coconut
6 tbsp mustard powder
1 kg cleaned prawns
4 fresh green chilies
2 tbsp mustard oil
2 tbsp white oil – can be rice bran, peanut, sunflower
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
½ tsp red chili powder
Mix the mustard powder with ½ tsp salt, 3 slit green chilies and water at room temperature. Keep this in a bowl for a good 6 hours to take away the bitterness the mustard normally exudes.
Marinate the prawns for 10 minutes with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder. In 1 tbsp of warm white oil in a wok, toss the prawns and fry at medium heat for 3-4 minutes. The prawns will release water and turn pink in color. Set it aside with the water it releases.
For the tender coconut: pour the coconut water out, into a glass. Scrape out the flesh. Blend and keep aside.
For the brown coconut: scrape out three quarters of the white coconut meat; chop into little pieces and blend in the mixer with half the tender coconut water.
In a tbsp of warm white oil, fry the coconut paste from the brown coconut for 2-3 minutes at medium heat. Add the mustard mix and stir well for another 2 minutes. Then add the tender coconut mush into the wok and again mix for another minute. Finally, add the prawns and prawn water. Mix everything gently. Allow it to cook for 4-5 minutes at medium heat. The consistency of the gravy should be somewhat thick.
Add a couple of green chilies, a dash of red chili powder, salt to taste if at all and the mustard oil. One more bubble and you are done.
Pour into the coconut shell and seal with the shell lid and a bit of wheat dough. Place the coconut for 5 minutes in a hot oven so that the shell lends its flavor to the prawns.
Serve with long-grained white rice.
This is really one of the most delectable Bengali curries. The prawns are so soft they melt in your mouth, and the accompanying coconut gravy is sweet and creamy. Serve it straight in the coconut shell for maximum effect. You can try this recipe at home or book a cooking class and meal experience with Abhinanda the next you visit Mumbai!