Every single food has a story associated with it, the ones we eat for the first time, the ones, we would go back to over and over again, sort of a comfort food thing, then there are those we try out of cook books, cuisines from another land with their share of tales, Finally, there are those which are handed down the generations and they sort of become a family favourite and I am pretty sure there are stories there as well, how did the dish come about, why did it become a family favourite, who cooked it first, is this the way it was first made, who came up with the recipe, how many people was the dish suppose to feed, was there any special occasion that one would cook them and many more curious questions attached to these family favourites. For instance, I know that this particular dish is a favourite in one of friend’s family, she learned it from her Mother, and she from hers. As far as they can remember it has been in the family for nearly 4 generations.
How did it come about. The story goes, on a hot afternoon after a rather elaborate lunch her great grandmother was resting when the man-servant of the house came running with a telegram in his hand. Now her g-grandma could not read English, so she sent for one of the male members to read out the content. In those days, households were joint and many of the men folk did not have much to do and off course there would always be the one brother in the house, who was always available, more like did not have much to do. So by the time our man came to decipher what the content of the telegram was another hour passed. So g-grandma was now getting impatient and wanted to know what was going on. Finally,the telegram was read and it said, “reaching by evening train” Pebo . Pebo was g-grandma’s god-son and the son of one of the younger brothers in the family (g-grandma’s husband being the oldest brother) and the news of Pebo’s arrival who happened to be studying in Kolkata set the whole house abuzz. While all this was going on, our man; Pebo arrived yelling at the top of his voice ami eshe giyechi, porikkha te ami ditiyo sthan orjon korechi ( I have come and my exams have gone well and I have stood 2nd in the University) hearing this g-grand ma was elated and she said Pebo tui eshse giyechish, jaak thakur er kripaye tor porikkha bhalo hoyeche ( Pebo you have come, thank god your exams went off well). Now that Pebo was back , g-grandma wanted to feed him something special. So she sent for the other wives of the house, they met and there was a lot of discussion; mejo bou baritey to maach nei aar aaj mangsho to dupurei rannna hoye gache taholey ki kora jaaye. (g-grandma called for one of the wives and the discussion was that there is no fish in the house and we already cooked the meat in the afternoon, so what do we do) G-grandma sent for the cook and he was asked what is available, boudi barite kopi ache aar begun, baaki to shob ranna hoye geche. ( maam there is only cauliflower and potatoes available, rest all have been cooked). G-grandma thought for a while then she said theek aache baajare ki chingri maach pawa jabe, taholey aami chingri maacher dalna kore debo chele ta porikkha te bhalo koreche kichu to baniye debo je aar chingri ta o bhalo bashe je khoob.) ( alright if prawns are available in the market then I will make prawn curry and as it is Pebo has done well in his exams, must make something nice for him, plus he is fond of shrimps) So that is how this dish was conjured in my friend’s family, though to be honest it is a fairly common preparation in Bengal, but this is how it came about in her family. So when I heard the story, I could not resist getting the recipe from her.
Pebor Chingri maacher jhol (Pebo’s prawn curry)
- Shrimps- 15-20 -shelled
- potatoes-3 medium cut into quarters
- Cauliflower -1 medium cut into florets
- 2 large ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
- green chillies -2-4
- ginger paste-1 table spoon
- garlic paste-1 table spoon
- cumin seeds-1 and 1/2 teaspoon
- 2 teaspoons red chili powder
- 2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 inch cinnamon
- 1-2 cardamoms
- mustard oil-2 table spoon
- pinch of sugar
After chopping the vegetables, heat a wok or kadhai with the mustard oil.Add the whole spices and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and potatoes and fry for a few minutes. Make sure the vegetables begin to caramalise i..e. they turn golden brown in colour hence cook on medium to low heat.
Now add the spices, garlic and ginger paste followed by coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and green chilies. Mix all the vegetables well and keep sautéing for 5-7 minutes, finally throw in the chopped tomatoes.
Let them cook all together before adding water for the curry, followed by the salt and the sugar.Cook the cauliflower and the potatoes till they are soft but crunchy.
This is when the shrimps come in add them to the and cook for about vegetables for 5-7 minutes.
Once the shrimps turning pink in colour and curling up, that’s when the prawns are cooked . Add chopped coriander leaves and serve with hot rice.