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Mustard Prawns

Asma Khan

Lesson time 20 min

Mustard and seafood is a classic Bengali combination. Learn how to make this regional specialty with jumbo fresh tiger prawns. Asma teaches how to make a traditional turmeric and salt marinade and Bengali-style boiled rice, a method, which according to Asma, is the healthiest way to eat rice.

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– In this lesson, I’m gonna teach two Bengali dishes: boiled rice and prawns with mustard. Bengali food is very simple. It is essentially fish or other kind of seafood, fresh vegetables and rice. Fish, everybody eats because we are, of course, near the sea but we’ve also got lots of rivers. There is not a single occasion, death, birth, marriage where fish doesn’t take part. In this lesson, I’m gonna make two very classic Bengali dishes. One is pat, which is just boiled rice, Bengali style where you actually boil the rice and then you throw away all the hot water. It’s just drains through a colander. And then the second thing has got this amazing stuff, which is mustard. Mustard and seafood is a very, very traditional Bengali combination and depending on your ability to pay, people use small prawns or they use big prawns. I’m just doing a very, very simple prawns with mustard. Depending on the size of the prawn, it can become from a very simple homely dish to a very elevated, grand dish but that’s because of the size of the prawn. Recipe remains the same, absolutely. Okay, so let’s start. I’m gonna start off by getting the rice. So It’s Basmati. I could have made as well. It’s just gonna be a cup of rice and I’m gonna wash it the same way. Just gonna make sure I get all the starch out. As this one is basically not absorption and you’re gonna get all the starch out in any case, still It’s worth taking the bit of effort to get all the starch out. I’m gonna just wash it. The rice is being soaked now. And I’m going to now grind the mustard, which I’ve soaked them for 24 hours because they’re otherwise quite hard to grind. This is a wet grinder. I’m gonna turn it round. This is the texture you want. You want it chunky, you want it grainy, very granular. You do not want it like a paste, a thin paste. The mustard is a combination equal portions of black mustard seed and yellow mustard seed because they have kind of different kind of pungent kind of flavors. And also, it looks pretty to have the mixture of the two colors. So I’m just going to throw this water out that I no longer need. I’m gonna put some of the paste here. And then I’m just gonna add a bit of vinegar. This does taste different when you make it yourself. But It’s a bit messy. If you have the time and you have the enthusiasm, do it. I’m just gonna wash my hands and I’m gonna put a little bit of vinegar in there. This is malt vinegar. You can put any kind of vinegar. It doesn’t matter. Just a little bit, okay? That’s enough. Just mix it once to make sure that all the mustard is all in there. And that’s what It’s gonna look like, and you can just leave it there ’til you’re ready to use it. This is gonna go in with our prawns in the final stage. So now we’re gonna start with the prawns. I’m gonna get them out of the fridge. I did get the fishmonger to de-vein all of them. Sometimes people are not very clear what it is to de-vein a prawn, so I’m just gonna show you how to de-vein. Okay, so I’m gonna go to the fridge, take out the prawns. Let me get a plate so that I can actually put out the prawns when I marinate them. So here, the prawn has been de-veined. So there’s nothing at the back. Of course, the head has been taken out and the tail. But this is a clean prawn. Here, it hasn’t been cleaned. So what you need to do is take a sharp knife, and cut very gently. It just so happens that there isn’t a dark dirty vein in here. But sometimes, in there, in this area, you will find a dark vein. That definitely needs to be taken out. Most of the time, It’s black, sometimes It’s white. So you’ve gotta really run your finger through it and It’s just a precaution you need to take. So I’m going to just move this to the sink, wash my hands. And I’m going to marinate the prawns in turmeric and salt. That is a very traditional way that we start preparing seafood in Bengal. This is because water’s on the surface of the prawns and the fish because It’s caught fresh. It’s not been frozen, It’s not coming from far away. You’ve got to put the turmeric in there. It is antibacterial. So you rub it on front, back, surface of the prawns. You put in also salt. This takes out that fishy smell. So I’m just gonna bring the turmeric in. So the way we normally do it is we put it on the side, so not a huge amount of salt. Okay. And I’m just gonna move this aside. So I’m gonna mix this. And then start. Same way if you’re making fish. You wanna make sure that the turmeric has gone all the way through. This can be left for around 20 minutes, half an hour. Not more than that. What you’re gonna find usually is that there will be some water being released. You’ve gotta make sure you leave that water out. Never ever cook anything, any seafood straight from the fridge. So the outside’s gonna cook because It’s in direct contact with the heat and the inside is not gonna cook. So you have gotta make sure that everything is at room temperature, so when it goes in, it cooks all the way evenly all the way through. Okay, so now I’m just going to drain the rice that I have been soaking. I’m just gonna rinse this because I might need to use it again. I’m just leaving it there for now because I’m gonna actually put some hot water on. Don’t put it right to the top because, of course, It’s gonna go overflow. It might still overflow. While the water’s boiling, I’m going to take out the karahi to seal the prawns. Usually, people cook with mustard oil but as I am already putting mustard grain, I’m gonna use vegetable oil. So let me just put the fire on. I’m just putting oil. So my oil is heating, my prawn has been sitting for 20 minutes. I’m gonna fry this in small batches because if I put all of this together, the temperature of the oil is gonna drop and then what’s gonna happen? The prawn is not gonna be sealed, it’ll be cooked and boiled. You wanna seal the prawn. You don’t wanna cook it because It’s gonna go back into the heat. You wanna keep it very, very succulent. So literally just by sealing it this way, you hold all the moisture in. While my prawns are sealed, I’m gonna start making the rice. Now that the water has boiled, I can add my salt. And then bring in my rice, which I’m gonna put in here. I’m gonna rinse the colander and get it ready because once this boils, I’m gonna put it through the colander. So this is possibly the healthiest way to eat rice because when you soak it, you clean it, you still get rid of a lot of the starch. But then this process, you get rid of even more starch because a lot of that starch is gonna be thrown away. Now, you’re gonna see that water’s gonna start getting cloudy. And It’s getting cloudy because It’s getting the starch out there. Whenever I see this, I think of this that the people who are very, very poor and especially those with girls, the rice is given to the boys and they get the water. That’s it. They don’t get the rice. They get that starchy water. And if you see children in our slums with that very swollen belly, especially girls, that’s what they’re having. They don’t get to eat the rice. When I was in college, I worked in Mother Teresa’s orphanage. But those were not in the orphanage would come outside and this was the thing I could see them having. This is the starch water. This is given to them. It’s filling, It’s warm. This is not food but for them it is. And It’s usually the girls I saw who were always given this. I’m not gonna judge the parents who give this to their children because if they could afford, they would feed them. And so It’s not a judgment on them. It just feels bad that this was for them food, things that people normally just throw away. And I’m just checking. There’s still a very hard bit inside. You’ve gotta wait for it to still have that bit of something inside but not that you should be able to feel it, like a kind of… It shouldn’t poke your finger. Now I can feel it. So of course, there’s a very thin line between the rice being ready and the rice being starch. So I’m standing here with a spoon and all ready to go because I need to make sure that I don’t mess it up. There is no timing. So if you think I’m gonna boil the rice for five minutes, come back, It’s gonna be glue or some of it will be uncooked. You literally keep checking. Remember one thing, when you actually throw it through the colander and get rid of the starch, It’s still cooking. So don’t wait ’til it cooked ’cause then in there, It’s gonna be glue. I’m just going to do one more last time. I’m think I’m ready for it to tip it over. You wanna make sure that you can break it. And It’s ready to go. So I’m gonna now put it off. That’s my colander in there. So I’m gonna leave the rice there to drain. Just gonna get a fork and just kind of separate it a bit. I’m just gonna put it on the table so I can show you what I’m trying to do. You can see the amount of steam that’s coming out. It’s still cooking. So don’t panic, don’t worry. So while this is actually finishing cooking, I’m gonna finish the prawns. I’m gonna use the same oil obviously because the oil has got all the lovely flavors of the turmeric and prawns in there. Here are three pastes that are going to go in for the prawns. Onion paste, this is garlic, this is ginger. I’m gonna use two, should I use three? No, I’m gonna use two. I’m not gonna break it because this is super, super spicy. But if you’re using chilies that are thicker, you can break them. So the chili has gone in. This is the onion paste. Garlic paste. Ginger paste. I’m gonna give it a stir and then I’m gonna go and get some water because once the prawn goes in, It’s gonna start sticking. Now, there’s no timing. You just wanna wait ’til that very raw smells goes away. So I’m just gonna go and get a little bit of water in a glass and my mustard. So now you see the oil has separated. It’s cooked. You don’t want it to color a lot. First, I’m gonna put my prawns in. Then a bit of my mustard. Now, just because some of the paste is sticking, I wanna release it. I’m just literally sprinkling water. Don’t put lots of water. You’re just gonna spray the water to release any of the paste that’s getting stuck. A bit of salt. I’m gonna put it off. So I’m gonna take out the prawns and I’m going to garnish it with green chilies. Okay, so I’m just breaking up the chilies roughly. You can, of course, chop it if you want. Okay, so here the prawns are ready. The rice is ready too. I’m gonna take out the rice. And here it is, Bengal on a plate. Boiled rice and prawns cooked with mustard.

About the Instructor

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.

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