Shorshe is love for a Bengali. You will rarely find a Bong who does not like shorshe. Couple that with chingri and you have shorshe bhapa chingri, a Bengali classic that arouses passion like none other. Someone once said that the secret to great cooking is to first find the call of the ingredients in your heart and bring the knowledge of the flavor in the pots. To top that, the secret to a great shorshe bhapa chingri is good quality mustard and superior quality prawns. You might not find many Bengali dishes made with frozen prawns, owing to the Bong obsession with a ‘fresh catch’. Let me try and show you the other side via my recipe for shorshe bhapa chingri. Here is a personal story attached to this dish.
For this recipe, I have used frozen prawns from ITC Master Chef. Shorshe chingri requires superior quality prawns to elevate the taste of the dish. Ask any Bengali of the previous generations what superior quality prawns meant to them – ‘a visit to the local fish market and buying the so called catch of the day’ is what they will surely say. When I first shared this recipe cooked with frozen prawns with my mother and mother in law, they disapproved and wrote it off, even before tasting. Let me break it to you- It is a myth that Bengali prawn dishes can be cooked only with ‘fresh prawns from the fish market’.
Sunday lunch with shorshe bhapa chingri made with frozen prawns
It was a Sunday lunch at my place and I had invited my parents home. I come from a joint family and I lived in a full house with two uncles, two aunts and of course, my mom and dad. I still remember that lunch and the expression on everyone’s face. Each one had polished off the shorshe chingri from their plates, licking their plates clean.
My father particularly asked me which fish market I got my catch of fresh prawns from, since they were indeed very fresh. Baba is a foodie who has spent his life around various parts of coastal India, he knows his prawns and loves them more than any of us. Till today, he doesn’t miss going to the local fish market every Sunday morning.
Sunday Fish Market Scene in Kolkata
Sundays are a sight to watch at the fish market. The place is buzzing with ‘Bangali bodhrolok’ with their nylon shopping bags in their hands. Yes, they have multiple bags- one for ‘mach’ (fish) and one for vegetables. Sometimes, there is a third bag for other groceries too. But the ‘macher’ bag is key. You cannot even pick up meat in the ‘macher’ bag. Oh! And not to forget, they all have their own designated fish monger, who gives the best fish in the world and never cheats on weight.
Baba has his fish monger too and he trusts him, perhaps more than me. “Chotur moto bhalo mach keu dae na”, Baba says all the time when he sits for his lunch. Meaning, “no one gives fish better than Chotu, the fish monger” He also insists that I buy fish from Chotu only, from the Patuli floating market.
So when he asked me about the purchase of the prawns, I knew he wanted to confirm whether I got it from Chotu or not. I had this smirk on my face and a ‘know it all’ grin and yet I didn’t divulge the secret on the spot. Later on, with much probing, I proudly informed that these were frozen prawns launched by ITC, under a brand ITC Master Chef. Told him, this is what they have been using across their chain of hotels. Baba was quite taken aback. He cross checked multiple times and just couldn’t believe the prawns were frozen. He in fact felt, they tasted better than fresh. How could his Bengali heart accept that frozen is better than fresh? Everyone at the table enjoyed the prawns as well. And that’s how I won the hearts of many discerning palates on that day.
Frozen prawns are actually fresh prawns which are frozen.
My concerns with hygiene, led me to research frozen prawns with great interest. I have learnt, ITC prawns are harvested scientifically in several facilities, under supervision of competent authorities maintaining strict hygiene standards. I have often been bothered about the quality of the water used for the ice in which the prawns are kept in the market, which is mostly dirty and contaminated. ITC Master Chef prawns are frozen within a few hours of catching them and my experience of cooking with them makes me vouch for them in terms of quality and taste.
What about the flavor and texture of frozen prawns?
Once you thaw the ITC frozen prawns and cook them, you realize how tender and plump they are. The process of freezing locks in the flavor and freshness. These aspects have made me an advocate of frozen prawns and hence I felt the urge to share this with all the prawn lovers out there.
Tips for cooking frozen prawns
Unlike fresh prawns that need to be meticulously cleaned, peeled, deveined, in case of frozen prawns, all you have to do is thaw them. There are two ways of thawing the prawns:-
- First keep the packet of frozen prawns in the refrigerator (not the freezer) the night before cooking. When it is time to cook, the frozen prawns would have defrosted. Empty the packet of defrosted prawns in a bowl and bring it to room temperature. Drain off any excess water and the frozen prawns are ready to cook.
- If you do not have your cooking planned, just take the prawns out and keep them in a bowl of water at room temperature. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the frozen prawns to de frost. Drain out the water and start the cooking process.
How to Make Shorshe Bhapa Chingri
The cooking process is fairly simple.
- First grind yellow mustard seeds with a green chili, mustard oil and some milk.
- Once you have a smooth paste, make a blend with yellow mustard paste, poppy seed paste and some grated coconut.
- Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder in the paste and add the prawns to this.
- Now all you have to do is place the entire content in a tiffin box. Drizzle some more mustard oil for that extra oomph. Add a couple of split green chilies and cover the tiffin box. Place the tiffin box in a pressure cooker with inch deep water. Close the lid and give it one whistle or cook for 10 minutes.
- Once done, open the lid and remove the tiffin box. Serve the prawns with steamed rice. That’s bhaat and chingri machh for Bengali, in other words – that’s a dream come true meal.
You can also cook shorshe bhapa chingri in a microwave. Place all the contents in a microwaveable container, cover partially and cook for 5 minutes. It is that easy.
You can also check out the recipe of Shorshe Bhapa Chingri video in our youtube channel –
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