Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Prawn Balchao

The first time I ate ‘Prawn Balchao’ was at the Karavalli restaurant in Taj Gateway Hotel, Bangalore. It is one of the best seafood restaurants in India that I have been to. And no trip to Bangalore is complete for me without having one meal, preferably dinner there. Prawn Balchao is a tangy dish with a thick masala that can be served as an appetizer or as a side dish with plain boiled rice or a mildly spiced pulao. It is almost like pickled prawns, both spicy and tangy. It will stay well in the fridge for up to a week because of the presence of vinegar.

Last Sunday, I went to the fish monger with the hopes of buying fresh white pomfret to make a crispy fried dish. But to my disappointment there was no white pomfret on that particular day. I found the prawns fresh and good so I bought a kilo of it to make our favourite balchao. Very often I change my menu depending on whats available fresh in the market.

I have tried making balchao earlier with different recipes from cookbooks and on-line websites. On Sunday, I arrived on my own version combining a few recipes. Here it is……..


600 gms prawns, shelled and deveined
½ cup oil
1 inch ginger
15 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
10 red chillies
5 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp mustard seeds
¾ cup malt vinegar
2 onions, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
2 sprigs curry leaves
Salt to taste

Serves : 3 - 4

Cooking time - 1 hour

Wash and drain the prawns thoroughly. Add salt and keep aside. Grind the ginger, garlic, cumin, red chillies, cloves, cinnamon and mustard to a fine paste using half the vinegar.

In a pan, heat half the oil and sauté the prawns until all the moisture dries up. This will take a while since the prawns will give out about a cup of liquid and all this liquid has to dry up. It should take about 15 mins or so. Now remove the prawns and keep aside. In the same pan, add the remaining oil and sauté the chopped onions until lightly browned.

Add the ground masala and sauté for about 5 mins until the raw smell leaves. Add the chopped tomatoes and remaining vinegar and sauté until the oil separates. The tomatoes should be cooked through and pulpy. Now add the prawns back in to the pan along with the brown sugar and curry leaves and sauté for a few more mins until the oil separates again.

It is perfectly fine to substitute malt vinegar with white distilled vinegar and brown sugar with regular white sugar. The flavour of the dish may be slightly altered but it’ll still taste fantastic. The oil used in this dish may be a little too much for some people but this dish needs ½ cup of oil to get the desired taste. I have tried cooking it with less oil but the taste is not as good at the end.


  1. I regret that i could not make a lighter version of this fabulous recipe..

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  3. you mean with less oil? like i said this dish needs that amount of oil to get the right taste. make it once a month or something. its definitely better than eating a similar dish in a restaurant. i guarantee that in a restaurant they would use twice the amount of oil!

  4. I'm going to try this out tonight....i hope it turns out well