Sunday, 24 October 2010

Chingrir Cutlet (Prawn Cutlets)

It was pujo-time in Calcutta, tralalalala. This means incredibly dressed up streets, rows of complicated designs made up of tiny coloured bulbs, incredibly beautiful marquees everywhere hosting utterly gorgeous idols of the mother goddess--pride and glory to architecture and artistry everywhere, magnets to millions of people, and nightmares to the traffic police.

However, a certain kind of artistry transpires indoors, in heat-hazy kitchens, with zero to none audience density. Even were someone to wander in by mistake, they'd probably be knocked out by the right hook of odours, combining raw fresh fish, frying cardamom and cloves, ground cinnamon, steaming vegetables, marinating meat, boiling milk, chilli-pasted mustard, and melting ghee. Plus there's the constant loud chatter of too many people exchanging cross-connected gossip, interspered with panicked cries and sudden dives towards the stoves or the spice-rack.

All in all, not an oasis of peace.

Still, once one gets used to it--and once people stop interrupting the festive cooking with annoying demands for unending pots of tea and snacks, chaayer shaathe ta--the family kitchen is rather a fun place to be during these four days. Apart from the aromas, which really does rather grow on one, there's inevitably old stories one never gets to hear otherwise, and juicy titbits from people one doesn't see the rest of the year. And the glorious misunderstands of aforementioned cross-connected gossip. Had it not been for a shocked gasp from the sister of the man, for example, an aunt would have gone home thinking Adityo's fiancée's prim mother had eloped with Adityo, when the actual story was about Adityo meshomoshai threatening to elope with his son's finacée's mother if the 'unsuitable' match was not called off forthwith.

Gossip is complicated like that.

Anyway, having spent time in the kitchen amidst all this, I had inherited the opinion that those that haven't suffered do not deserve knowledge. However, since I am nothing but sweetness and light, kindness personified and grace itself, I shall post some of the very regional recipes that seldom find their way outside Bengali kitchens, and are beginning to fade even within. Sometimes, food is worth the effort.

We'll start with an easy one. Chingrir cutlet.

It's trés simple. Grind garlic, ginger, one small onion, a handful of green chilies, black pepper and one or half teaspoon of sugar, depending on taste. Wash, peel and de-vein large prawns (I used tiger prawns, but anything goes). Cut them along the vein so that they open up sideways like a butterfly's wings.

Marinate these prawns in the mixture above, with a dash of (flavoured) salt and the juice of half a lemon/lime (usually, half a lemon to three prawns is the ratio, but never add more than 1.5). I also use chopped or minced coriander leaves/cilantro, giving the mixture a greenish tinge.

Thereafter, follow the pictures:

Serve with a cucumber, onion, tomato salad with a salty lime juice dressing, a garlic-cheese dip, a chutney, or even with rice and daal, which is how I ate it at my grandparent's place when I was young :-)


Dea-chan said...

I'm not even a shrimp person, and those look tasty (must be the fried-like nature!)

Also, you are entirely sweetness and light. "Sugar and spice and everything nice" and all that.

therapy said...

Oh this is beauty. Beauty.

Sigh. Smells of home and that stuff that only comes out of bengali kitchens.

Soapsuds said...

darun! egulo shotti aar khub ekta pawa jai na. Tobe amar barir kachhe kotogulo dokan ache. shob chop cutlet bikri kore. Tate pawa jai. Tobe that is no comparison to this. Amar etao chai! Ami tomar barite giye thakbo december e gele. Ki dukkho hoy. Tomar blog pori tarpor rajma chawal khai. Address ki bolo toh?

Sue said...

I've made hundreds helping Ma out and that's why I don't venture into it any more. They vanish in a couple of bites... but the work involved is so great!

Mind you, the photographs are tempting.

The Owl said...

So,what happened to the people concerned in your story, finally? Did they get married?

I am sorry to be so nosy...but really to leave a half-completed story like that and fob people off with chingrir cutlets....and I promise you I will not ask such questions again :(.

Rimi said...

T--you can make this with skinned haddock or cod too, if you're a fan. Try try!

N--thank you :-)

Ushmi--Kolkataye aaye, address bole debo :-) In return, you can teach me how to bake. I have no patience with sugary baking.

Sunny--I. Could. Not. AgreeMore. You slave away for hours and then they're gone in four bites! Dammit!

Still, my own share makes it worth it :-)

The Owl--all right, I've completely forgotten whose handle this is. Let me know? Also as far as I can tell, the match is most certainly on. What the poor man does not know, and neither does his widowed counterpart, is that the couple have already been living together for over a year in Bangalore and are in no hurry to subject themselves to the torture of a 3-day wedding. They're letting the parents work off the steam.

Dea-chan said...

I made a pumpkin dish! 'Tis tasty! You should try.

Vemula Madhu said...

interesting recipe
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