Prawns Balchao is a fiery dish that finds its origins in Goa. Prawns are stir fried first and then added to a pickled curry sauce to create a dish that makes your taste buds tingle and leaves you asking for more. I first had Lobster Balchao almost 8 years ago in an Indian restaurant in Orlando called Dakshin. Here’s the thing with Balchaos, you eat it once, you will never forget the taste. When I came back home from Orlando, I couldn’t wait to make this curry at home. My husband happily brought the grocery supplies but when I made it, the Lobster Balchao was nowhere close to the one we had at Dakshin. Over the years, I kept experimenting with this recipe on and off only using Shrimp or Prawns instead of Lobster (they are so expensive!) without much success. The reason I failed was because I would hesitate to use 1/2 a cup of vinegar and would use a tablespoon or two. We don’t normally use vinegar while cooking and hence the hesitation.But how can you make pickled prawns without vinegar, right? Once the realization dawned, the recipe was easy to nail!
Recipe variation – Don’t let the masala making process dissuade you from making this awesome dish! You can easily substitute the chillies with chilli powder and the other spices with garam masala but I would have to say making fresh masalas at home does lend a slightly superior taste to the dish. Also, ideally this dish is made from coconut toddy vinegar but since I didn’t have it, I substituted it with vinegar.
Recipe source – I researched a lot of recipes for Prawns Balchao on the internet before I came up with this version. I mostly read the recipes to understand the ingredients that is needed and then follow my gut when it comes to how much to use. The reason you should do that too is because you only what is the right balance of spices for your family. What maybe ideal for others, may not work for you. Tone it down or take a notch up as needed.
I love Prawns in any form and this recipe will now become my go-to recipe for making Prawns along with Shrimp / Prawn curry. Serve this recipe hot accompanied by rice and as I have said before don’t be afraid to experiment with the spice levels when you cook and feel free to reduce or increase the heat levels.
If this recipe for Prawns Balchao has worked for you, please do leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.
- 1 lb (4 cups) medium sized prawns (or shrimp), uncooked (cleaned and deveined)
- ½ cup oil
- 2 cups onion, finely chopped
- 2½ cups tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Water as needed
- 10-12 dried red chillies (Kashmiri or Byadgi)
- 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera) seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard (rai) seeds
- ½ cup vinegar
- 10 cloves
- 1 - 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 7-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- Grind all the ingredients in the masala section (chillies, garlic, ginger,cloves, cumin and mustard seeds, cinnamon stick and vinegar) to a fine paste. Set aside.
- In a deep dish pan kept over medium heat, add ¼ cup oil and when it heats up, saute the prawns (or shrimp, if using) for couple of minutes, till they change color. Drain the prawns and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the remaining oil and fry onions till they are soft and translucent (in approximately 10 minutes). Add tomatoes to it and continue to fry them till the onion-tomato mixture has turned soft and mushy and oil starts to surface (in approximately 10-12 minutes).
- Add the ground masala along with ½ cup of water and mix well. Continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes and then add prawns, sugar and mix well. Add water to adjust the consistency of the sauce to your liking. Cover the pan and let the shrimp simmer in the sauce for another 5 minutes.
- Serve hot with Rice.