A close friend of the family insists that I post shrimp in coconut sauce.  He is right to insist upon this dish, which is a masterpiece.  If you like shrimp, it is a testament to the magnificence of Bengali cooking, and arguably, it is one of the best things one might ever eat.  He had a good point too about Bengali food – certain dishes are special, they are unique to locality and country, and yet they are able to transcend borders and boundaries.  They make us that much prouder of our cuisine, of our abundance and ingenuity.   All cultures have these dishes, as do all families, communities, and restaurants.  It’s the signature dish.  


Shrimp with Coconut  Sauce or

Chingri  Macher Malai Curry

I had the opportunity to taste this dish again in India.  My aunt, one of my mother’s sisters, made this dish and the shrimp were exquisite.  The following recipe is my mother’s version.  She and I cooked it together after I returned from India, which is to say that my mother gave directions while I measured and stirred, timed, weighed, and wrote.  And yes, it was mouthwateringly divine.      


1 lb. raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails removed

2 potatoes, cut into 8 pieces each

½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup fresh or canned diced tomato, skins removed

½ -inch fresh ginger root, grated

¼ cup ground rice melon seeds (chal mogoj) or ¼ cup ground cashews (optional)

1 tbsp onion, minced

1 teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon turmeric power

2-3 fresh green chilies, more or less to taste

1 tej leaf

1 green cardamom pod, smashed open

2 cloves

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1- inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

Salt, sugar to taste

Unflavored oil 

The list of ingredients might seem intimidating at first, but the dish is made in stages, which simplifies the process and ensures tender, instead of rubbery, shrimp.

Step One: Shrimp Prep

Marinate the cleaned, deveined shrimp with a touch of salt, turmeric and ½ teaspoon of the ginger root.  Set aside and marinate 1 hour in refrigerator.  Do not marinate more than 1-2 hours; otherwise, the ginger will alter the texture of the shrimp.

Step Two:  Thickener Prep

Optional, only if  adding rice melon (chal kumro) seeds or ground cashews as a thickening agent.  Rice melon is a type of summer squash, round and large like a softball. The flavor is similar to zucchini.   Its seeds are similar to pumpkin seeds, but they are smaller, pale beige, and very mild.  Blend the rice melon seeds or cashews with a small amount of water, periodically scraping down the sides.  The mixture is used primarily as a thickener and only a small amount is required.   Blending ½ cup at at a time is easier than blending ¼ cup.  Covered, it will keep well in the fridge for a 3-4 days and will live happily for a month in the freezer.  Alternately, a pinch of cornstarch or flour can be used if needed.

 Step Three: Potato Prep

Add a little oil to a non-stick saucepan and fry the potatoes with a little salt and turmeric until golden brown and cooked through.  Set aside.

Step Four:  Sauté shrimp slightly

Sauté shrimp slightly in a little bit of oil, just until pink.  About three minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Step Five:  Preparing the phoron (oil and seed) mixture

Add 3-4 tbsp oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil for a minute of two and then add the tej leaf, cardamom pod, whole cloves, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and green chilies.  Heat the oil until the spices becomes fragrant (about 2 minutes). 

Step Six:  Sign, Seal, and Deliver

Add the onion to the heated oil and sauté with a pinch of sugar until caramelized.  Add tomatoes next,  cook until dissolved into the oil, and then add the coriander, turmeric, and remaining ginger.  Next, add potatoes, coconut milk, and blended nut or seed mixture if using.   Bring to a boil (about 5 minutes).  Turn heat to low and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add the shrimp at the very end and cook over low heat for just another 3 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through and all the flavors are incorporated.  Done! 

Serve with rice.



3 Comments Add yours


    Hi Mimi,

    When my mother used to prepare Chingri Sharse Boil, (Shrimp with Mustard) she did not use onion, cardamom, coriander, tej leaf, cumin seed, cinnamon stick. I feel these ingredients will reduce the actual aroma of the shrimp in the Shrimp and Mustard preparation. My suggestion is to prepare Shrimp with Mustard with and without the above ingredients in small quantities and find the difference of taste.

    I am sending you another recipe: Paneer Batar Masala. Just try it and let me know. This recipe has been given by Mousumi for you.

    White Paneer 200 grams.
    Butter 50 grams.
    Milk 1/2 ltr.
    Cardamon 10 nos baked and smashed.
    Onion Paste 100 grams (optional).
    Tej Pata 2 nos.
    Chal Magoj/Kaju Nut 2 teas spoon ful made to paste
    Salt & Sugar to taste.
    Whole red Chilli 1.
    Green Chilli 1 or 1/2 as per taste.

    Fry the paneer cubes in 25 grams of butter lightly so that the cubes do not loose whiteness. Keep those aside. In other 25 grams of butter fry the other ingredients excepting sugar in low heat. Put the milk in the pan and boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Put sugar and lightly fried paneer cubes and boil for another 5 minutes. Put chal magoj/kaju paste and leave for 2 minutes. Do not serve it boiling hot. Try it with rice, bread, chapati.

    This is a complete vegeterian dish and the onion is 100% optional.

    It will be a milk white Paneer Butter Masala.

  2. Neel says:

    Delicious! Very good job Mimi, keep on writing.
    What about “Shukto” and “Labra”?

    1. Mimi says:

      Neel — Thank you. Both shukto and labra are very good ideas. They’re on the list of foods to be learned and cooked.

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