Malabar spinach with prawns. Pui Shak diya chingri mach.
There is no denying that there are some ingredients that are unique in taste.
Malabar spinach or in Bengali Pui shak, is one of those. It’s very distinctive in its taste, which makes any curry that it is incorporated in rather special.
Malabar spinach has a rather grassy aroma, quite similar to Swiss Chard but a lot more potent. Its availability seems to be rather sparse, not always available throughout the year in the UK. It’s also not the most popular of greens because of its strong grassy aroma and slight mucusy stems. See link for more info; Let’s talk about Veg
Pui shak is synergistic. It is a great match with seafood. It’s absolutely delicious cooked on its own or with other vegetables in curries, but it’s greatest pairing tends to be with seafood, all seafood.
I paired it with prawns today. I’ve had this dish many times as a child. I have never actually seen my parents or anybody cook it. Even when my mum used to come and visit, she just usually let me cook it the way I do. Today’s recipe is basically my own way of making Pui Shak with Chingri, Chingri being prawns, of course, but without onions and garlic. There are countless recipes and variations. I have many off my own, and they change depending on the seafood. I quite like this one. It’s pulled back, let’s the pui shak and prawns shine as they are not fighting with strong flavours of onion, garlic, or ginger. It’s tempered with Panch Puran. An aromatic whole seed combination used widely with vegetable dishes. For more about Panch Puran, let’s talk about Panch Puran
I usually make this with some pumpkin thrown in, but if I don’t have pumpkin, there is always potato in the recipe, which helps thicken the sauce a little. It’s a loose kind of dish, wet in appearance but without the thin sauce. That’s how I like it because it concentrates the flavours and the spices. I always find the smell of Pui Shak as its cooking rather enticing. I can’t say I’ve ever had a pui shak curry that disappointed me. The key thing to remember is that the Pui Shak takes centre stage.
350 g of prawns. I used a bag of Mr Prawns.
About 400g Pui shak, cut into finger lengths, separate the stems, and coarsely chop the leaves.
One large potato put into inch size cubes
The same amount of pumpkin as potatoes cut into cubes.
4/5 green chilis slit
3 dry red chilis
1 level teaspoon of turmeric powder
½ teaspoon of chilli powder
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of panch Puran
half a cup of vegetable oil.
1 ½ tablespoon of cumin powder
2 level teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
Marinade your prawns with a pinch of your turmeric and salt and set aside.
Heat a nonstick pan and add in half of your oil. Once the pan and oil is hot and your potatoes, a pinch of tumeric and a pinch of salt and sauté these until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Next, add the pumpkin to the oil with a pinch of salt and turmeric and sauté again until just slightly golden and set aside.
Add the prawns to the oil and gently sauté on a high heat until they become slightly golden and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Now add the remainder of the oil to the pan, once the oil is hot add the dried red chilis, bay leaves and as soon as they darken add the green chilis and give it about 20 seconds to sizzle. Now add the Panch puran.
When this becomes aromatic and slightly darker in colour, add your Malabar spinach stems. Give this a good stir and cover, reduce the heat, and let it cook for about five minutes, stiring occasionally.
The Malabar stems should be slightly tender after five minutes, at which point you will add to your remaining spices, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, salt, and sugar. Dry Fry for a few minutes, and then add a splash of water just to loosen the spices. Cover and cook on low for another 4 to 5 minutes, stiring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick. If it starts to look a little dry, keep adding splashes of water.
Next add your sauté potatoes, pumpkin and prawns. Give everything another good stir. Cook covered for a few minutes. Add the Malabar spinach leaves. Add a cup of water, give everything a good stir, put the flame up and let this cook down until half the water has reduced. Next reduce your heat to medium and continue to cook now until the potatoes break up slightly and the sauce thickens to the point where it’s all coming together.
What you want is for the curry to have a loose appearance but without a thin, watery sauce. Check the seasoning for salt.
Switch off the heat and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes in order for the potatoes to absorb a little more of the remaining liquid.
Serve with nice hot plain rice, which is always the best accompaniment.
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