Goan Prawn Pulao / Arroz Com Camarao de Goa

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There are very few dishes which work out equally good on super hectic work nights as well as during the special supper on a more relaxed weekend.This Goan prawn pulao is one such star dish.The amazing aroma of fresh prawns and Indian whole spices will never fail you.It is one such easy to make one pot meal,that  is favorite of all prawn lovers.This dish is  versatile in the sense,you can incorporate your choice of vegetables along with the prawns to make it a perfect no fuss balanced diet.Light,nutritious and filling .What else do you want for a perfect meal ?If that’s  not enough,then let me tell you,it is time saving too.

Goa is known to be one of  the main hub of sea food in India.Situated in the western coast of India,along the shore of Arabian Sea,Goan cuisine includes,coconut milk,spices and rice apart from sea food as it’s main cooking ingredients.


Apart from it’s original Hindu -traditional cooking form, the cuisine of Goa is largely influenced by Portuguese Colonization  of 400 years. Coming to Portuguese influence on  Goan style of cooking,it is  said that the Portuguese exhibited to the Indians the use of herbs,spices,tomatoes and chili in cooking.Prawn Balchao and Pork Vindaloo  are two famous examples,of such influence which has taken over Goan cuisine since the inception of the Portuguese colonization till the modern time.Thus Goan cuisine is a wonderful blend of east and west.

Coming to Goan Prawn Pulao or Arroz  Com Camarao de Goa,this dish like many other Goan recipe,bear resemblance to Portuguese style of cooking.Scented with the aroma of cinnamon,small  cardamom,clove, and marked by the meaty taste of the succulent prawns this  recipe is a welcome alternative to the regular pulao.


Ingredients :

  • 200 gm prawn,whole,un-shelled,washed
  • 1 cup long grained rice
  •  white oil/ghee to cook
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 5-6 peppercorns
  • 2-3 small green cardamom
  • 3 teaspoon garlic,finely chopped
  • 1 medium  sized onion,finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric(1/2 teaspoon for marinating prawns and 1/2 teaspoon  for the pulao)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala powder
  • 2-3 green chili,finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes,halved
  • 1/4th cup  green peas
  • cilantro or parsley leaves ,a handful,finely chopped
  • 1 cup  coconut milk,thinned with 1 cup water
  • salt  to taste
  • sugar to taste



  • Remove the heads and shells of the prawns,de-vein,wash,pat dry and keep aside.
  • Marinate the prawns with turmeric and salt.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil and fry the prawns till  golden pink.Take out prawns of  the frying pan and keep aside.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil/ghee to the oil   in which prawns have been fried.
  • Heat the oil,and temper it with bay leaf,cinnamon,green cardamom(slightly crushed),cloves,peppercorn
  • Let the whole spices splutter and cook at low to medium flame.
  • After 1 minute,add the finely chopped garlic,saute till golden brown.
  • Add the chopped onions.
  • Sprinkle 1/4th teaspoon sugar,fry the onions till soft and golden for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add turmeric, red chili powder,cumin powder,coriander powder,garam masala powder .Saute for a minute or two.
  • Add  1 cup coconut milk thinned with 1 cup water.Stir well.Let the gravy come to a boil.At this stage add the fried prawns and salt to  taste and let the gravy thicken and come to a boil.
  • Once the gravy thickens,remove the prawns and keep aside.Prawns tends to get chewy and rubbery ,when overcooked,so it should be added to the pulao preferably in the last stage.
  • Add the green peas and  rice to the gravy,cover and cook(the ratio of rice to the coconut gravy  should be 1:2)
  • Add salt and sugar as per taste
  • Once the rice is almost done,add the prawns,chopped green chili and  1/2 tablespoon ghee
  • Adjust the salt and sugar content if required.Turn off the flame.Give it a standing time of  2-3 minute.
  • Transfer it to the serving bowl.
  • In a wok take 1/2 teaspoon oil.Heat it.Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves ,put them in the oil along with a handful  finely chopped parsley or cilantro leaves .Saute them slightly in  the oil for 1-2 minutes,at medium flame.
  • Garnish the pulao with the glazed cherry tomatoes.They will  add the perfect sweet-tangy taste to the spicy pulao rice.
  • Serve the pulao with raita or yogurt dip of your choice or savor it on it’s own.

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Shutki maach er bhorta /Mashed Spicy Dry fish : Is dry fish still a symbol of social identity?

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Being Bengali  and being proud of that is not enough for us .When we crave for more  clear cut identities we call ourselves Ghoti or Bangal  and hence identify(along with many other things) our food and food-habits likewise.It is said-the bangals are all for hot and spicy food.They love Hilsha .Where as the Ghoti loves to add an extra spoon of sugar to his food and prefer the food more mellow.They love prawn.We will happily discriminate among food ,add tags to our food preferences ,cooking methods and be proud of  that.Of the many foods that discriminate a bangal from a ghoti and vice versa one that ranks in  the top list is probably Shutki Maach (Dry Fish).

And just when I was going to tag shutki as a bangal food/fish,I thought of myself-a born Ghoti married to a Bangal. Yes, I love being an exception to the rule(I am sure there are many more to join me).The sight and smell of cooked shutki maach makes me as happy as the sight of long awaited ordered food in a restaurant.Pardon my analogy ,but don’t  ignore  the sentiments behind.The world from my perspective is clearly divided into-those who loves shutki and those who do  not.There’s no middle path when it comes to shutki.If any let  me know.

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Shutki or dry fish when uncooked has a got a typical characteristic pungent smell,pungent enough to evoke nausea.It has got a stinky smell ,very similar to that of  dry shrimp powder Belachan used in Malaysian and Indonesian cooking.Drying fresh fish is a  method of preservation  by removing water from  the fish.Other than drying ,methods which act as catalyst to fish preservation  are smoking  and salting.The popular variety of dry fish consumed globally are bombay duck, shrimp,mackerel,anchovy,tuna,sardine,etc.Dry fish processing and selling in  markets is common worldwide.

Fellow blogger Ushnish Ghosh   tells me the difference between dry fish and fermented fish : ”dry fish is dried in sun or in oven to get rid off the moisture so that the bacteria cant survive , and salt also strilize it ..wet sutkis ( are not dried) ..like Shidol,puti mach is stuffed into bamboo, sealed from out side for air to get in,and the enzymes in the fish ferment the fish ..( just like in yogurt, bacteria ferment the milk) ..also nona Ilish …Ilish is put in lot of salt , sealed and kept out for months to get a typical aroma …but the famous Odisha Ilish sutki , is stuffed with salt and dried in sun” .Dry fish is much less smelly than the fermented fish ,because of the preservation method.

In Bangladesh about 7.3 million people live in coastal fishing villages and earn their livelihood by fishing.Most of them dry  fish by following the method of sun drying.Interestingly,a large share of Bangladesh’s economy can be contributed from the dry fish markets in Dhaka,Chittagong,Tangail etc who export a major portion of their produce worldwide.

Bangladesh which has a great number of water bodies,produce dry fish in the coastal areas,near the rivers and harbors.The processing takes place mainly under the sun during the month of October to April.The winter months remain the preferred time for the fishing activities as the rivers,water channels and depressions remain relatively calm  and quite.The necessity to cultivate dry fish is triggered  more by the fact often the fresh water fishes remain unsold  because of lack of customers or lack of  sufficient transport facility to send the fresh fish to the town or metropolis.

Dry fish collection: Photo courtesy-www.demotix.com/Zakir Hossain  Chowdhury

Dry fish collection: Photo courtesy-www.demotix.com/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury

Dry fish processing :Photo courtesy - www.demotix.com/Zakir Hossain  Chowdhury

Dry fish processing :Photo courtesy – http://www.demotix.com/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury

Hong Kong dry fish market  Photo courtesy :Purabi/www.zomppa.com

Hong Kong dry fish market
Photo courtesy :Purabi/www.zomppa.com

Where as in China, Hong Kong boasts of a Dried Seafood Street.Half a century back  the area had salted fish stores,where workers would dry their fish on the rooftops,sell them in the ground floor and live somewhere in between the two floors.It is said ,for ages Chinese have believed that food should not be wasted,fish when in excess,were preserved thereby using salt , other minerals  and sun dried.This was a common practice when there was no refrigerator to preserve  fresh fish.The Chinese belief is dried oysters and mussels when consumed on the Chinese New Year brings luck  and fortune.

Over time the Chinese practice of conservation of fresh fish by sun-drying has been  adapted by many cultures .It is now staple of Maldivian ,Srilankan and Burmese cuisine.In India Kerala,Orissa,West Bengal,Tamil Nadu,Andhra Pradesh,Assam,Tripura etc boasts of their collection of dry fish recipes.Dry fish grew in popularity also from the fact that some version of dry fish are cheap and are regarded as source of high protein for a poor man.

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Much social stigma has been attached to shutki(dry fish).It has generally been  culturally perceived as the food of the lower income  group,because  the economically cheap version of dry fish is the  main source of protein for many economically lower income group people,who cannot afford rather expensive fresh fish.Is it not time enough to de-stigmatize some food?We would consider sea food like mussels as highly coveted and exotic but still underplay the essence of fish preservation?Will it be ever elevated to the status of restaurant food in the socio- cultural  city  hubs  ?

 It is amazing to note how different culture and region eat dry fish  in their unique manner and how versatile dry fish are to adapt to the local cuisines. Some region prefer to have steamed dry fish with rice,while some others make a curry out of their choice of dry fish,whereas some enjoy cooking dry fish along with vegetables.

The version that I enjoy eating and cooking most uses very few ingredients.It  is a  rather  spicy mishmash of dry fish, rich in taste and is marked  by profusion of onion, garlic and  dry red chilies,all used to cut down the pungent odor of the dry fish.This is generally known as  Shutki bhorta /bata /bhuna(mishmash) in Bangladeshi cuisine,and as Shutki Chutney(dry fish pickle) in Assamese cuisine.

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Dry version of – Bombay duck/loitya/bombil ( or your choice of dry fish) : 300 gm

Onion :100 gm,finely chopped

Garlic: 2-3 whole pod ,finely chopped

Dry red  chili powder:  4-5 heaped tbsp(adjust according to taste)

Turmeric: 1 tsp

Mustard oil for cooking

Salt to taste

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  • Since the fish will be extremely dry ,cutting and chopping the fish will be bit difficult.Hence boil some water in a pot , take it off the stove,  dunk the fish into the warm water and cover with a lid.
  • Let the fish seat in the warm water for 20 minutes to half an hour.While soaking,you can change the warm water few times,this will  reduce  the pungent smell of the fish and help in getting rid of the sand particles gathered while drying the fish on the sea shore.
  • After the fish has softened enough to cut and chop ,take it off the water and discard the water.
  • Pat dry the fish.
  • Remove the head , tail  and central bone of the fish and cut it in 1” piece.The remaining small bones ,will disintegrate into tiny pieces while cooking.
  • Put the fish pieces in the mixer grinder or pestle and mortar and mash it nicely, retaining the coarse texture.Do not add any water during this process.
  • Heat  the mustard oil (2 tbsp  to start with)  in the wok.
  • Once the oil is  hot enough,add the chopped garlic and let them splutter,and turn light brown.Avoid burning them.
  • Add the chopped onions ,once the garlic turns light golden brown.Reduce  heat  and keep frying the onions till translucent.
  • Add the dry spices (turmeric and red chili powder) at this stage and stir for a minute or two.
  • Add the mashed dry fish,coat the spice mix well with the fish.
  • Reduce the flame  and stir continuously  to avoid burning.
  • Add little more oil  at this stage,if the mix tends to dry up.Dry fish soaks a lot of oil  because of it’s texture and preservation method.
  • Keep mixing thoroughly  the fish and the spices .
  • Add little salt,be careful while adding salt( 1 tsp or depending on the taste). Dry fish are preserved with salt  ,so they are already high in salt content.
  • While cooking,do not add water,as the fish will release some water, and get cooked it’s own moisture.
  • Keep stirring,till the fish mixture takes the   form of a coarse paste,and releases oil  or when most of the water dries out.
  • Once done ,serve it with hot steaming rice and let the compliments flow in .




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