Prawn Balchao is one of Goa’s most famous dishes. It is actually a condiment and often described as “prawn pickle”. Call it whatever you wish, it’s absolutely delicious. Prawn Balchao will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days but in my house it’s usually finished by the next day.
1 lb of small to medium size prawns or shrimp (peeled, de-veined, tail removed)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1˝” piece of ginger, peeled and rough chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
8-10 fresh curry leaves
10-12 dried Kashmiri chilies (you can use any dried chili)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
˝ tsp turmeric (haldi)
2” stick of cinnamon
˝ tsp black peppercorns
3-4 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar, to taste
˝ cup white vinegar
3-4 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
Soak the dried chilies in a little warm water, this will allow the chilies to soften up and make them easier to grind.
In a small dry skillet on medium low heat, toast the spices (black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, green cardamom pods and cloves) for just a few minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Then using a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices into a coarse paste. I actually use a little of the soaking liquid from the dried chilies to create the spice paste. Set aside until needed.
To a blender or small food processor, add the softened dried chilies along with the ginger and garlic. Add the vinegar and the ground spice paste. Also, add the salt and sugar. Blend into a coarse paste and set aside until needed.
In a deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, carefully add the prawns (or shrimp). Let the prawns (or shrimp) cook for a just a minute or so on each side, remove them and set aside until needed. To the same pan, add the onions. You may add a tbsp or so of oil if needed. Stir fry until browned and then add both the turmeric and curry leaves. Stir fry for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir fry for a few more minutes and then very carefully add the Balchao masala paste. The masala paste can be very strong on the senses when it hits the hot pan, so be very careful. Reduce the heat to low and let the onions and Balchao masala paste cook for 10-12 minutes. Now return the prawns (or shrimp) to the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with fragrant Basmati Rice or fresh chapatis.