For all the readers of this blog, it may often appear that I don’t cook much. Yes I agree I don’t cook that much but it’s untrue that like “cometh the hour cometh the man,” I don’t help her out when it’s needed. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a family and by a mom, in particular, who always encouraged doing household chores. Ma was a teacher, who had to sacrifice her career to look after her in laws. She ran her household single handedly. Yet, she always found time to knit sweaters for everyone, read her favourite book or listen to Rabindrasangeet.
Ma never had a house help and Baba was not the helping types at home. Setting up the table, bringing in glasses of water, tossing the vegetables in the kadhai while she is busy with something else or even keeping a watch on the boiling milk, were my activities. These may sound silly and insignificant but at an early age, I realised doing small household chores gave me a lot of pleasure and dignity. It also gave me an understanding of the amount of effort that goes behind the scenes in a kitchen before the food is served on the table.
What has all these got to do with Chingri Makha?
They say, you are always a prisoner of your childhood and these small steps in formative years, remain ingrained in you. Till now, I prefer making the morning tea for everyone. It was also a custom at the home that I clear the plates after every meal if there is no help around. I have even done that when guests are at home. For once I didn’t feel anything different. I realised that I love helping in the kitchen, doing my bits and pieces when necessary. At the risk of sounding obsessive, I don’t allow anyone to clean the whiskey and wine glasses after a party. That’s my job. So, when Madhushree and Debjani were holding their pop up, I helped massively in making the chingri Makha.
You cannot prep for chingri Makha over night and serve to guests
In most dishes, the prep could be done in advance and finally cooked in the end. However, for chingri makha, everything needs to be prepared fresh and served. The stars of the show from Madhushree – Fulkopi roast, Parshe Machher jhaal, Murgir dom; all were slowly moving as per the CPM chart and amongst all the chaos, we realised that not much has been done on chingri makha. I was contributing in whatever way possible during the prep.
On the D day, I really wanted to contribute to making of the chingri makha. I started with the easy preps. So I first chopped the onions very fine. It should be so fine that you can only sense the smell and taste in your mouth with a bit of crunch too. Of course, that meant some tears in my eyes and laugh from Tugga and chops and re chops on onions. Next, I separated the coriander leaves from the stems and chopped them too.
Deveining the prawns for Chingri Makha – the most crucial part
The toughest part was deveining and it took me some time to get into the act. To start off, it could be done with a knife but the prawns were so small and dainty, I preferred using my thumb and forefinger. Once that was done, the prawns had to be lightly steamed and then broken into smaller pieces. I was sitting with a large bowl and silently breaking the prawns into pieces. Another important ingredient, the grated coconut was already done and waiting to go in the holy trinity. The perfectionist in me was slightly apprehensive about the size but Madhushree assured me that rustic uneven cuts is the flavour of the dish. Finally, I added the mustard oil with chopped onions, green chilies, coriander leaves and salt to taste. The degree of spunk can be altered by levels of mustard oil and green chilies.
Chingri Makha for summers
Lau chingri, chingri malaikari and shorshe chingri are some of the very popular dishes which one can name in one breath. Chingri Makha never features in this list. However, once you have it, the taste lingers on and you would want to make it once again for another meal. For summers, this can be part of the antipasti platter. Yes, we don’t take antipasti but we start with the makha (mish mash) or bhatay (aloo, uchhe, korola, ol) the list is endless.
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Chingri Makha / Prawns and onion salad
- 300 gms small prawns cleaned and deveined
- 1 medium finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 tbsp Mustard Oil
- 2 no garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- 1 no chopped green chilli
- 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
- Salt To Taste
- Take the cleaned prawns in a small heat resistant bowl. Drizzle 1/2 tsp of mustard oil. Place the bowl in a sauce pan or kadhai with little water and cover and cook in low heat for 8 minutes approximately. The cooking time will depend on the size of the prawns.
- Alternately, you could directly place the prawns in a kadhai with a little bit of mustard oil and cover and cook over very low flame. The chances of the prawns overcooking here is high. So you have to keep a watch and it cooks in less than 5 minutes.
- When the prawns change colour and have become soft, turn off the heat. Discard the water and take the prawns in a mixing bowl. Using your fingers, roughly break the prawns into small pieces.
- Add the finely chopped onions. Point to be noted here is that the onions have to be really fine, tiny pieces.
- Grate the garlic over a microplane or use a gralic press to add the fresh garlic to the bowl. Add chopped coriander leaves, chopped green chilies, 1 tbsp of grated coconut, salt and drizzle the rest of the mustard oil. Give them all a nice mash with your fingers.
- Garnish with freshly grated coconut and serve.