Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Prawn Pickle

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Growing up, pickles with any sort of meat were never something I had heard about, so it was a revelation tasting meat pickle brought back by friends from Kerala in our hostel.
It turned out later that that meat was beef so that effectively ended my gustatory experiments with meat and pickle but slowly, over the years, I began hearing of how so-and-so back at home had heard of somebody who made ‘chicken pachchadi’ and ‘mutton pachchadi.’ These reports would always be accompanied by an expression that said “What’s the world coming to? What will people pickle next?” I hadn’t heard of fish and prawn pickle even then, not from any part of the country, but came to discover them only much later.
The prawn pickle that I’ve tasted a few times over the last few years is made with lemon juice, garlic, fenugreek and mustard, much like the time-honoured recipes of many other pickles Andhra homes are famous for. I’ve even tasted one with the bite of cloves, which I found excellent.
These days, of course, due to the home-style stores in Andhra that specialize in making and vending traditional snacks and sweets once not usually found in sweet shops, non-vegetarian pickles seem to have become more popular and less ugh! The morsels found in them are an apology for meat and the masala is black, fried to death, probably due to the huge quantities they undertake to make.
At a book exhibition recently, I found a book that had recipes for two kinds of prawn pickle – one with tamarind and the other with lemon juice. I tried the lemon juice version today, and while I misread the instructions and messed up things midway, the end product didn’t turn out too bad.
Of course, it’s still just a couple of hours since I made it – after wrestling with the photos, I immediately stuck it in the fungus-proof interiors of my wonderful fridge, so I’m not sure how good it inherently is.
Here’s the recipe then, as it’s found in the book. I do hate it, though, when these books don’t specify the kind of salt or the measure but blandly say “Salt - to taste.” Maybe the book expects its readers to be experienced, all-knowing cooks, I don’t know. Funnily enough, the list of ingredients in this recipe totally missed mentioning the salt but all the other pickle recipes said that. It’s not as if it’s a dish you can easily adjust the salt in – pickle-making is a delicate and difficult enterprise, all the more so when it’s your first time, why don’t authors think of that? I asked around and crushed two small fistfuls of rock salt and added it to the pickle – that’s another of its inherent uncertainties!

Prawns: 1 kilo (2.2 lb) (I used only half the quantity and frozen, thawed ones as I don’t know how to handle fresh ones)
Garlic: 4 cloves (you can increase the amount)
Turmeric: 1 tbsp (increase it, it might give the pickle more staying power)
Chilli powder: 100 gm
Salt: I used two small fistfuls of crushed/ground rock salt
Mustard powder: 50 gm
Fenugreek powder: 50 gm
Lime juice: 1 cup (I ultimately had to use 2 cups for it to retain some moisture)
Oil: ½ a kilo (I forgot to measure the volume, sorry, but it’s not impossible to weigh)


Shell the prawns, wash well, drain and place them in a bowl. In a frying pan, heat half the oil to smoking point and fry till “red.” Cool.



In the same frying pan, put in the rest of the ingredients, mix with the rest of the oil, then mix with the prawns and bottle in sterilized jars. Leave it to steep for a day and check for seasoning the next. Meant to be eaten with hot, soft rice. I would recommend putting it in the fridge.

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15 comments:

  1. Sra, its going great guns...the pix look lovely...oh why oh y wasnt i sailing in that boat with you.... :) things look absolutely yum and have sent the blog to a colleague in KL... she is a bit flustered about the ingredients, whether she would find all of them. I told her we could try the fine (read flimsy) art of substitution. take care Anna

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  2. Wow lovely pickle, shall make it because I love prawns.
    You scare me Sra when you say "Salt to taste", I am that kind of cook who tastes her food along the way, so I ALWAYS say "Salt to taste".
    Please don't be so strict :)

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  3. Looks great! I have heard of Meat pickles but never tasted them though.Looks delicious!:)) Enjoy!!

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  4. Ooh, thanks, Anna, I don't often get compliments for my pics.
    Sandeepa, :) Salt to taste for simple recipes is fine, I think pickles deserve a more precise treatment, that's one of the natural preservatives and the kind of salt can affect the taste - even after a couple of days, I still feel the pickle lacks salt but when I think of how much I put in it, I hesitate to add more. Btw, your blog rejected my comments twice yesterday.
    Asha, you will probably get prawn and fish pickle in Indian stores - the commercial variety come from Kerala and are vinegary in taste.

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  5. Sra,
    hey I didn't know about this comment rejection thing. Can you please try again & let me know ?
    thanks a bunch
    --sandeepa

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  6. this one is definitely a bouqet. It certainly looks good. Salt to taste is so that each person can add salt as needed. I agree with sandeepa. u have to taste it as u go. within my family itself we all have differing salt levels.

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  7. Hey thanks for testing it out. And they claim beta is totally tested, but then what is software if there are no bugs :)

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  8. Wow, soooooo tempting!! wish I could just take some off the computer right away! Thanks for sharing this delicious lipsmacking pickle.lovely colour !

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  9. Looks delicious!Have tried fish pickle...never prawn before..will try this soon..

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  10. Shaheen, thanks, I'm sure your attempt will beat mine any day!
    Lera, it IS a typically pickle colour, isn't it?
    Maheswari, let me know how you fared!
    Thanks all of you, for commenting.

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  11. Sra...I am drooling after loooking at those pickle...my hubby's fav.will try this...Thanks a bunch.

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  12. Sri, glad to have you drooling. Hope your hubby finds the real thing droolworthy as well!

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  13. Hello Sra ,
    Am I supposed to heat the oil to smoking point & fry the prawns until it turns red take 'em out & cool it?
    And about the lime extract should I add it along with the powders & cook it in the pan with oil or else pour it into the jar once the prawns & powders are cooked and mixed

    -Natarajan

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  14. Hi Natarajan, yes, heat to smoking point, fry till red and cool. This year, I made this again, and I added the lime juice after I had made the rest of the pickle gravy/masala - as far as I know, lime juice tends to turn everything bitter if it's cooked so I just squeeze it over whatever I've cooked after taking it off the fire if I'm using it. But this year's experience taught me that I need more lime juice than mentioned in the recipe I followed - maybe the rest of the spices and residual heat take away some of the sourness!

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  15. Yummmyyy for my tummmmyyy! I used to buy prawn pickles from the only store which sold it in Defence Colony, Dilli. They were all Thai-made.

    I get good prawns here, I will probably adjust your quantities to fit my first attempt with 250 gms of prawn. Thanks for sharing.

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