And so Dada and I set out, one golden autumn morning, gorgeous sunshine bathing the metropolis, still crawling back to her mundane chores after a week of fun-filled festivities, scouting for what Bapi’s cousin had enthusiastically highlighted was one of the highlights of the city’s culinary scene. It’s like a pilgrimage, he had passionately narrated, sipping his tea, you can’t be in Calcutta (no, she was still not Kolkata then), exploring her food scene, and not make a trip to Golbari to dig into kosha mangsho and parathas.
And the journey, past the serene Rabindra Sarovar, the busy Kalighat temple, the fairy atop the memorial to the Empress, the greens of the Maidan, the odd tram trundling by, the cloud-kissing Shahid Minar and a lot more, was worth every bit the effort – the taste of that spicy sinful mutton in a to-drool-for gravy of caramelised onions and a melange of spices lingered on our taste buds long after we had returned to Karimganj.
Cut to the present.
When my fishmonger sends home some fresh-from-the-Bay plump Golda Chingri this mellow autumn-melting-into-winter morning, a thin veil of late autumn mist hanging in the air, the first drops of dew glistening on the blades of grass as they catch a streak of the infant sun, I am seized by nostalgia.
As memories of that morning in Kolkata decades ago come fleeting back, I decide to cook a Kosha Chingri, inspired by those unforgettable flavours of Golbari.
Kosha Chingri. Succulent jumbo prawns. A potpourri of spices. A hint of cashew paste. A kiss of poppy-seed paste. Sinfully caramelised onions.
Decadence at its best !!!
And if you are addicted to prawns as much as I am, here’s a digest of my favorite prawn recipes. Enjoy !!
Kosha Chingri (Jumbo Prawns in a Spicy Dry Gravy)
- 6 jumbo prawns or golda chingri de-shelled , deveined and heads removed
- 1/4 cup yogurt whipped
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 2 tbsp onion paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp posto or poppy seed paste
- 1 tbsp cashewnut paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 2-3 green chilies slit
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 2 tsp ghee
- salt to taste
- Marinate the prawns with yogurt, onion paste, ginger paste, garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp mustard oil, keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Now add the cashew-nut paste and poppy-seed paste to the prawns, mix well, keep aside for another 15 minutes or so.
- Heat the remaining oil in a thick bottomed pan, when smoking hot, throw in the crushed cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Allow the whole spices to splutter.
- Once the spices have released their aroma, add the sliced onions, fry till golden brown.
- Add the marinated prawns along with the marinade. Cook over a low flame till oil starts to separate from the masala.
- Add 1/4 a cup of warm water, give it a gentle stir.
- Throw in the slit green chilies, adjust seasonings, continue to cook over a low flame for a further 5-7 minutes or so till the gravy thickens to a coating consistency.
- Finish with a sprinkle of garam masala powder and a dollop of ghee.
- Serve hot with rice.