This classic chingri malaikari from the rich cuisine of Bengal is etched in my childhood memory like a treasure. My food nostalgia is not complete without this delicacy!
I remember vividly that this dish was a staple in almost all of our family meals that were arranged on special occasions! As a child with no idea about cooking, I remember being in awe of its delicious taste every time I devoured it!
Now that cooking is one of my primary passions, I wanted to master this dish more than anything else. After trying this multiple times in my kitchen, today I finally have the absolute guaranteed recipe for you which would churn out perfectly delicious chingri malaikari every time!
What is chingri malaikari or malai curry?
Chingri malaikari is a kind of a prawn stew made in a base of coconut milk and flavored with whole spices like bay leaf, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Thanks to its silky-smooth coconut milk gravy, it is an immensely popular Bengali delicacy which is loved by almost everyone!
I can’t really explain how much I am in love with this classic. If I may say so, this chingri malaikari might be the real reason behind my blind love for chingri a.k.a. shrimps or prawns.
Pro tips to make perfect chingri malaikari every time
- Use as fresh prawns as you can possibly get. Try not to use frozen prawns for making chingri malaikari. Take the fresh catch and prepare this on the same day.
- I have used different brands of coconut milk and have seen differences in the final outcome with each. A good quality thick coconut milk will give you the best result. I recommend this one from Real Thai if you are in India.
- The USP of this dish is in its freshness and vibrant golden yellow color. Do not add too many extra spices or too much onion as that can kill the fresh vibe of the dish. The only powdered spice you need is turmeric.
Ingredients for chingri malaikari
Check out the list of ingredients needed to make a warm delicious bowl of chingri malaikari!
Prawns: I feel the choice of prawns for malaikari is a little personal! You will see many prepared chingri malaikari with large prawns which we Bengalis call golda chingri and badga chingri. But I have used the regular prawns which are easily available everywhere. These are much smaller than the other two but taste as good! Please feel free to use whichever variety of prawns you prefer.
Also, my better half doesn’t like prawn heads, so I removed them. But traditionally, prawn heads are kept intact in chingri malaikari as they add a lot of extra flavor.
Coconut milk: This is the primary flavoring ingredient of chingri malaikari. Use a good quality thick coconut milk which you can get in any supermarket. If you are adventurous, then make your coconut milk at home by extracting it from the freshly grated coconut.
Curd/Yogurt: Mild tartness in curd balances the sweetness of coconut milk and also makes a thick base for the gravy. Make sure to beat the curd until smooth, else it may curdle.
Onion: To make a smooth gravy, we will use onion paste instead of chopped onion. Just half a cup of onion paste would be enough to give a thick base to the gravy.
Aromatic: Ginger and garlic, the holy duo, is a must have to perfectly balance the flavor palate of your chingri malaikari.
Whole spices: This chingri malaikari gravy gets its magical taste from all the flavorful whole spices i.e. bay leaf, cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon stick.
Turmeric powder: The only powdered spice required in this recipe is our good old turmeric powder.
Mustard oil: Since this is an authentic Bengali recipe, I recommend using mustard oil as that will give the pure bengali taste to your chingri malaikari.
Pro tip: If you are not a Bengali and not used to such pungent oil, then first heat the mustard oil until it starts smoking. Then switch off the flame and let the oil cool down. Then again warm it and start cooking. This way, the pungency will be mellowed down significantly.
Sugar: Since this dish is on the sweeter side, you will need a good amount of sugar.
Garam masala: For a final touch of flavor, sprinkle garam masala, the homemade one, on top of the gravy and let it soak up all the goodness!
Salt: Season it to perfection!
How to make chingri malaikari?
Let’s check out the step by step process of making this bengali delicacy.
Step 1: Wash, peel and devein the prawns keeping the tails intact for better presentation. Add about ¼ teaspoon of turmeric and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the prawns and give a good mix to coat each prawns evenly. Set them aside while you prepare the aromatics.
Step 2: Grind the onions to make a smooth paste. Mince the garlic cloves. Grate the piece of ginger.
Step 3: Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a kadai or wok and sauté the prawns quickly just for a minute; do not cook too much as they will turn tough. Take out from the wok and set aside on a plate.
Step 4: Heat the remaining oil in the same wok in which the prawns were sautéed. When the oil is quite hot, reduce the flame to low and temper it with the bay leaf, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon stick.
Step 5: As the spices start to splutter and release their aroma, add the minced garlic. Saute it for a minute on low ensuring that garlic doesn’t burn.
Step 6: Add the onion paste and saute till golden brown and soft. This would take about 8 to 10 minutes on low flame.
Step 7: Add grated ginger and continue sauteing for 2 more minutes until the raw smell of ginger is gone.
Step 8: Now add the beaten curd/yogurt, turmeric powder, sugar & salt and give a quick stir. Keep sauteeing for a few minutes until oil starts to release.
Step 9: Now pour the coconut milk into the wok. Mix gently using a spatula. If the gravy looks too thick, add half a cup of warm water and bring it to boil.
Step 10: When it comes to boil, add the sautéed prawns. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes to let the prawns soak up all the flavors.
Step 11: Uncover the wok and check if the prawns are cooked through. Prawns cook really fast, so do not leave for too long.
Step 12: If you want the gravy thicker, then boil it on high flame for 2-3 minutes more till it reaches to your desired consistency. Else proceed to the next step.
Step 13: Switch off the flame and sprinkle garam masala on top. Cover the wok and leave it for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Step 14: Serve the tempting chingri malaikari with basmati rice. Enjoy!
Other delicious prawn/shrimp recipes from Flavor Quotient
- Chingri/Prawns – 500 gms, medium size
- Coconut milk – 250 ml/1 cup
- Onion – 1, large, grind to a smooth paste
- Garlic – 8 to 10 cloves, minced
- Ginger – 1-inch piece, grated
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cloves – 4 to 6
- Green cardamom – 4 to 6
- Cinnamon stick – 1-inch piece
- Curd/yogurt – ¼ cup, beaten until smooth
- Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
- Mustard oil – 4 tbsp
- Sugar – 2 tbsp
- Garam masala – ¾th tsp
- Salt to taste
- Wash, peel and devein the prawns keeping the tails intact. You can retain the heads too if you like. Add ¼ teaspoon each of turmeric powder and salt to the prawns and mix well to coat each.
- Make a smooth paste of the onion. Mince garlic cloves and grate the piece of ginger.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok and sauté the prawns quickly for a minute. Take out from the wok and set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same wok in which the prawns were sautéed. Once the oil is hot, reduce the flame to low and temper it with the bay leaf, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon stick.
- As the spices start to crackle and release their aroma, add the minced garlic. Saute it for a minute on low flame making sure it doesn't burn.
- Add the onion paste and saute till golden brown and soft for about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Next add grated ginger and continue sauteing for 2 more minutes until the raw smell of ginger is gone.
- Now add the beaten curd/yogurt, turmeric powder, sugar & salt and give a quick stir to mix everything well. Keep sauteeing for a few minutes until oil starts to release. If the gravy looks too thick, add half a cup of warm water and bring it to boil.
- Once the gravy comes to a boil, add the sautéed prawns. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes to let the prawns soak up all the flavors. Uncover the wok and check if the prawns are cooked through.
- If you want the gravy thicker, boil off excess water by keeping it on high for 2-3 minutes more until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Remove from heat and sprinkle the garam masala all over. Cover and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve the tempting chingri malaikari with basmati rice. Enjoy!