Friday, April 04, 2008

Of Coconut Milk and Bengal

As schoolchildren in a small town, we only had a few schoolmates from other ethnicities. So when someone came in on a transfer to this district headquarters from a strange town or bigger city, and if they spoke no other language but English to us, their exotica didn’t fade for quite some time. We also had the other kind – children who were originally from our State but who had rarely lived there, and who would fondly refer to their past place of residence as their true home, often discounting or denying the influence of Telugu and Andhra Pradesh in their lives, amusing/irritating/angering us as we saw fit.

One such of my classmates was a Telugu girl who had some family connection to Bengal, I think her grandparents had worked there; I remember that much about her though I don’t remember where she herself came in from. She was not like the others, spoke Telugu quite well, but constantly referred to Bengal, aloo dum and curds mixed with sugar. To put it mildly, that last thing took us some getting used to, but it was also my first exposure to Bengali cooking, if only in hearsay.

It was not till about seven or eight years ago that I found my first Bengali cookbook – not a very slick production, the author didn’t even sound Bengali (though there’s no rule that ethnicity determines authenticity), but the recipes worked very well. Though I have added another book or two on the cuisine to my collection since then, I always turn to this book when I look for Bengali recipes because the tastes of whatever I made from this were the same that I experienced in an ethnic Bengali feast I was lucky enough to sample a few years later (ratification, I mean).

However, I have to admit that this recipe sounded most un-Bengali to me, though I do know that coconut milk is used now and then. Only, I was familiar with chingri malai curry, not with egg malai curry – well, either I’ve not been reading the Bengali blogs too attentively or I haven’t been cooking or eating enough Bengali food, but this curry seemed as South Indian as it could get.

IF you don’t count the deep-frying of potatoes and egg yolks that is prescribed.

However, in the interests of our arteries, we can safely avoid this portion and go ahead with the discovery of Bengal.

This, of course, goes to RCI-Bengal, hosted by Sandeepa.

Egg Malai Curry

Eggs – 5, yellows only
Tomatoes – 3, big; blanched and sliced
Onion – 1, big
Garlic – 2 cloves
Ginger – ½ inch
Sugar – ¼ tsp
Potatoes – 2, medium-sized, boiled, peeled and quartered
Coconut Milk: 1 cup
Ground cumin – 1 tsp
Bay leaves – 2
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder – to taste
Coriander leaves, chopped – to garnish
Oil, to deep fry
Ghee, to saut̩ Р3 tbsp (I used oil, and only 1 tbsp)

Grind onion, ginger and garlic to a paste.

If you want to be true to the recipe, deep fry the egg yolks and potatoes on both sides. If not, you can use the boiled potatoes and fried eggs (a bulls eye, fried both sides, no runny yolk).

Heat the oil, add the bay leaves and onion-ginger-garlic paste.

When that seems well-fried (changes colour, loses smell is my cue), add the blanched tomatoes, salt, sugar and all the spices. Fry till dry.

(Well, dry isn’t exactly what I noticed, but it does become thick and concentrated.)

Turn down the heat, add the potatoes, then the coconut milk. Let simmer.

Once it begins simmering, add the yolks.

Simmer for five more minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.

You can use the egg whites to make an omelette or scrambled eggs. Here’s an idea.

I'm away for a week or more, so until then, Ugadi greetings!


  1. Deep fried yolks? hmmm... how do you do that? Seperate the yolks, heat oil and add? Never tried that, sounds delicious :)
    Happy Ugadi to you Sra...Enjoy the break!

  2. ever mallus love coconut milk (or anything to do with coconut for that matter)

    love this recipe!

  3. How do you deep fry yolks? Wait, Sig just asked that! :)

    Bengali, South Indian, whatever. These flavours sound delicious!

    Happy Ugadi!

  4. Sig, yes, exactly that way. I can hear the cholesterol gushing into the bloodstream, can you? Thank you!
    Nags, thanks. I'm ever so thankful coconut milk comes in packs, that's about as close as I would get to a coconut.
    Kaykat, yeah, exactly like that, like how Sig described. Thank you!

  5. ur posts doesn't appear on TOI??? :(

  6. that looks great sra...what a colour..I am sure after this you must've been on strict this recipe in sandeepa's..thought it was too make it sound so simple...loved the story too..I have had similar experience

  7. and a very Happy Ugadi to you too..have a great time

  8. Sra, the curds with sugar thing is one of our favourites, especaiaaly after a meal :-DD...btw, I have no idea about the egg yolk frying, but that sounds very interesting :-)

  9. yumm!!! that gravy looks rich, indeed!!!

  10. Funny post sra. I totally pictured two little girls with oily plaits giving each other the stinky eye over descriptions of yoghurt with sugar :):)

  11. hey this recipe looks delicious! lovely entry.

  12. nice gravy!
    how much coconut milk do u add? for the ratification i mean ;)

  13. Looks delicious, Sra! Happy Ugadi to you too!

  14. Creamy and rich gravy, delicious.
    Happy ugadi!

  15. what if it is un-bengali, it looks mighty good and even has a Bong name :)
    Fried egg yolks....mmmmm

    And curd with it :) During my stint in B'lore my request for sugar with curd every single day at the cafeteria, got me several of those "looks"

  16. Sia, today's appeared after we wrote!
    Valli, this was on Sandeepa's blog? I checked, but not carefully enough, I guess. Which side of the experience were you on? :)
    Sunita, I still find the curds-sugar thought difficult to digest.
    Ms, hi, no stinky eye, nor did I gag, but my expression would have spoken volumes, I suppose :)
    Anjali, hi, welcome, and thanks.
    Richa, LOL! One cup - I knew I had goofed somewhere - the Net connection was erratic and confused me!
    Uma, thank you!
    Cham, thank you!
    Sandeepa, I'm surprised everyone finds the idea of fried egg yolks attractive. I didn't, tho' they weren't bad after I tried one! And yes, if I'd known you when I was younger, you'd have got that look from me too!

  17. I had hard time hunting for some vegetetrian bengali dish , glad that i have finally one now to try with . great entry for RCI , sra.

  18. looks rich and creamy girl:)))great entry

  19. Isn't it amazing how most people return to the same 1 or 2 books for years and years? Oldies but goodies, right? This recipe sounds perfect to me.

  20. This is certainly different but I am sure that the taste is fantastic. It looks so thick and creamy-good.

  21. Happy Ugadi to you too, dear! Love everything with coconut milk, but not a big fan of eggs. I'll keep the recipe in mind and use a vegetable substitute :).

    Even Punjabis have this thing for dahi with sugar as a dessert!! My vote still goes for dahi with black pepper and salt or raita :-D.

  22. Pooja, oh, so you eat eggs? Guess I've forgotten.
    Dhivya, thanks!
    Susan, oh yes, I have several cookbooks, only a few get used.
    Cynthia, the taste is good, just doesn't seem Bengali :)
    Musical, yeah, it's easily substitutable, I guess. Dahi with pepper sounds new-ish to me, tho' I have tasted it - will do again asap.

  23. Sra,
    so what if it sounds not familiar to me ,but still it looks so yumm..
    Coconut milk I guess enhances the flavor ...
    and dahi with sugar .." Mishti Doi " , remains our fav too ...
    when r u coming to city of joy LOL..
    enjoy ur break and Happy Ugadi ..
    hugs and smiles

  24. coconut milk makes the gravy rich...but this seems an exception to the bengali cuisine....will surely try

  25. Never heard of deep frying the yolks.. but I am sure this wud have enhanced the taste multifold!.. Love the color of the rich gravy.. Bookmarked!


  26. I'm in love with all your brilliant spices here! I can never get tired of coconut milk too! I don't care about the cholestorol, give me more!

  27. Sra that egg curry looks yummmm....though frying the egg yolks is new to me:)

  28. Ugadi subakanshallu!!! have a great time and enjoy my dear!!

  29. Trust you to find coconut milk in Bong food also... he he. Actually this is a lovely twist on the chingri malai curry, which is with prawns. I wouldn't deep fry the yolks either...

  30. Looks gorgeous! Happy Ugadi to you, Sra! :)

  31. Another effortless, creamy gravy. (I say "effortless" b/c I don't have to leave the house to purchase curry leaves!) Bay leaves, I have 'a plenty. Even so, this does look fairly easy and impossible to resist.

  32. This is a very different dish for me.... Nice one....Loved the presentation....

  33. This looks good!Deep frying yolks.....isnt it time consuming? But the pic looks delicious so I guess its worth it.

  34. I know that Bengali like to use coconut in their favorite dish.

  35. Jaya, no clue when or if I'll come to the City of Joy :( - just preparing, praying and hoping, that's all!
    Hi Bhags, have you tried it? It's quite rich.
    Siri, I'm not sure it will make much difference - a bull's eye with the yolk fried on both sides works as well.
    Todd & Diane, LOL! Enjoy!
    Saswati, yeah, frying was new to me too!
    Padmaja, thanksu. Meeru Ugadiki emi chesaru? Nenu holiday resort lo unnanu :)
    Hey Mallika, I'm no coconut-loving South Indian - use coconut milk only because it comes in packs! :) Made this only because it seemed unusual! In any case, after seeing all the comments by the Bengalis here, I'm wondering if this really is a Bengali dish, unusual or not!
    Kalai, thank you!
    Susan, it was okay, I mean, it tasted good but not Bengali so in retrospect I'm wondering if I'd been disappointed or not.
    Sukanya, thank you, it IS different.
    Homecooked, not really, I deep-fried one, it didn't take much time.
    Schufafrei, welcome! I know they use coconut in prawn curry and a few sweets!

  36. Curds and sugar....a must have at our place after lunch or dinner...

    This looks rich and creamy!!

  37. Yum! egg curry is our rany day special- this recipe is boomarked!


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