Daab Chingri

A few days ago, one of my friends from University died in Kulu during a trek. Here is the obituary, and you would note he was not much older than me… I was staring at nothing a long time after I heard the news, trying to comprehend the enormity, and realized that one fine day, the guy who had given me Schindler’s Ark for my birthday, and had long conversations about music, and asked me to give him gifts in Mafia Wars is suddenly there no more, and I somehow still cannot really come to terms with that.

He left behind his memories and his love for life and his love for the mountains. He used to tell me that he wanted to take me to the mountains. When I heard the news, one of the few things that strangely comforted me was the fact that he had died in the mountains, because I remember he told me once that he felt as if he belonged there.
It was that combined with several other things that finally pushed me to take a vacation to Puri, Orissa. It was a family trip, so a massive group of people went with me, and we stayed in one of the beautiful houses that we had leased for a year or so (You can do that if you want to in Puri. We have had an arrangement with a long-standing family friend, and as a result we get a house to stay in, complete with caretakers and cooks who swear I am thin. Of course, it is flattering and alarming, because then they proceed to feed you until they think that you are satisfactorily fattened out. I gained 2 kilos in 5 days. Yikes.)
We stayed here.
The sea was beautiful. I did not go swimming, purely because I did not feel like it this time. I preferred sitting beside the sea, soaking in the sun and the salty tang the breeze leaves on your mouth when you inhale deeply. I adored the beautiful weather, and the expertise with which the dogs quickly spotted a friend in me and followed me around the beach to the house, earning themselves the name “Darowan” (guard) and me being the butt of many dog-inspired jokes. 
Darowan One
The younger cousin proceeded to tell me all about her stay in her college (which is Benaras Hindu University, where she is studying Sanskrit) and ended up making me feel very sorry for her, and I stopped thinking soon after. 
My aunt, sensing my discomfort, proceeded to tell the cook to bring fresh prawns and shell them. She then told me that my cure was in cooking for the family. 
The View From the Top
I was surprised, amused, and yes, I knew she was right. It is very peaceful, cooking, and I sort of forget everything when I cook. And she gave me a task I have not attempted before… Making Daab Chingri from scratch, sourcing the ingredients from the local fishmonger and the coconut trees outside. Very important thing to note here: I DO NOT EAT SHELLFISH BECAUSE I AM ALLERGIC TO THEM AND I HATE COCONUTS. So this thing was really not meant for me. But for me, it was a challenge because I do not cook fish or shellfish too often.  My helper, Punno, cut off four beautiful young coconuts, or Daab, and helped me out by cutting off their tops, and carefully pouring out all the slightly salty sweet water which they immediately poured into glasses and drank. He then proceeded to cut off the end of the coconut carefully, so that the coconuts could keep standing on their own, but was careful, so there were no leaks under the coconut to prevent the moisture from flowing out. I was left with the beautiful empty shells of these coconuts, with the young coconut flesh glistening and white inside it. He also brought in the cleaned and washed bounty of large shrimps (about 3 inches long after being shelled) which he had bought from the fishmonger earlier in the morning. The prawns were shelled, deveined and beheaded. 
I made a paste of fresh yellow mustard, mustard oil, poppy seeds, salt, green chillies, turmeric and applied it to the prawns, and let them soak it up for a few minutes before I proceeded. Then I quickly stuffed each coconut to the brim with this mixture, and covered it with the coconut top. then I sealed it with a dough made of whole wheat flour, water and a pinch of salt. Then, a large flat bottomed pot was brought in and the coconuts were snugly fitted inside it, so that the four lovely stuffed beauties stood head to head. Cups of boiling water was then carefully poured inside, to make sure the coconuts were 1/3rd submerged. Then the pot was covered with a lid and allowed to steam. The heat was lowered once the water had come to a boil and it was left alone for 30 minutes.
Punno Holding the Daab with Chingri  inside before he served it.
Then the coconuts were carefully removed by Punno. I tried to do it, only to be scolded and told that my hands would be burnt, and I relented, knowing how possessive he was about his kitchen, and thanking God he had allowed me this tiny amount of time in his kitchen. 
See, the Daab Chingri has got lovely bits of the tender coconut flesh with the prawns!!
Result:  terribly tender bites of flavorful prawns. Punno scraped out all of the beautiful coconut flesh along with the prawns, and a lot of the tender coconut had melted with the prawns, giving it a beautiful flavour which is sort of inimitable. They ate and ate and ate and ate through, and four coconuts’ worth of the prawns were finished within an hour by 7 hungry people. 
By the Sea! 
I had a lovely time in Puri, and I am so glad I have a place there which I can safely call my home away from home for another month or so before the lease runs out! 
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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  1. poorna banerjee 2012-07-03 at 2:26 am Reply

    these were amazing.

  2. manya 2012-07-02 at 2:25 pm Reply

    I love d prwans a lot!

  3. pavani reddy 2012-04-23 at 7:53 am Reply

    this is fab poorna…looks sooo yummm!!!!lovely post

  4. Canary 2012-03-09 at 6:02 pm Reply

    beautiful blog, I am hooked!! I have been to Puri and loved it too 🙂 I do hope you will read my childhood experience with nature and share your views 🙂

  5. panu 2011-06-24 at 10:02 am Reply

    coal unoon unfortunately pawa jayni. gives it a wonderful flavour and another layer of beauty to it. I have also decided to try this inside my oven, and I want to see how this turns out.

    Jaya, thanks for coming by and commenting. I was ridiculously happy to see your blog… very very nice to see another great food blog from a Bengali. Bhalo to thakboi, aar hope I would see you more too!

  6. Jaya 2011-06-24 at 5:48 am Reply

    I am glad you liked my little world..and I am yet to make Daab Chingri, as we often end up drinking coconut water and then eating the soft flesh of coconut..Keep these delicious recipes coming ..hope to see each other more often ..bhalo theko..hugs and smiles

  7. saptarshi 2011-06-24 at 2:20 am Reply

    Excellent. My mesho, who is a good cook, used to put the daabs inside a coal-oonoon which had its heat dying out.

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