Weekly Recipe – Chitrita Banerji’s Chingrir Malaikari

This week’s recipe was first published in Tiffin:

Although I say this about every Indian cuisine under discussion, I have to state, with renewed vigor, that the Bengalis really do have one of the most interesting regional Indian cuisines. The low-lying Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, the largest of its kind in the world, has bestowed a bounty of rice on the region, and the abundant rivers have shaped the cuisine so that river fish and other estuarine seafood make their way into almost every aspect of the cuisine. In addition, the hot, wet climate of Bengal makes it a paradise for all the tropical greens and vegetables so beloved along the Indian coasts, including some that are hard to find anywhere else. In short, all the ingredients are in place for a unique and absolutely inimitable cuisine.

In her interview with Tiffin, food writer Chitrita Banerji recommends this dish, for chingrir malaikari, from her book Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals, as the ideal entryway into the wonders of Bengali cooking.

The original recipe calls for head-on tiger prawns, and if you can find them at your local seafood market, I highly recommend that you use them. They take a little more work to eat (you’ll have to use your hands) and to clean, but the effort will be well worth it. A great part of the appeal of this dish is in the very physical act of its consumption. The shrimp heads aren’t merely decorative: they add a tremendous amount of flavor to the sauce they are cooked in. And if you aren’t a picky eater, make sure to suck the delectable juices out of the heads of the cooked crustaceans: I sometimes think this is more delicious than the meat itself!

Please visit Tiffin to see the recipe in full.