Prawn balchao

Prawn balchao

Indian Food Made Easy
Vanessa Courtier

This Goan dish is spicy, tangy and full of flavour. It is how those living on the southern coast take advantage of the fresh, seasonal and cheap prawns that come their way before the monsoons set in and their supply runs dry. They buy baskets of the small prawns and use them to make this pickle, which lasts them through the ‘dry’ season and into the following year. A little goes a long way as it is spicy but very moreish and is an accompaniment rather than a main dish. If you want to use it as a pickle and keep it for a while, fry the prawns before adding them to the masala paste so there is no more moisture left in them. The gravy is moist and clings to the prawns as an envelope of flavour.


Quantity Ingredient
8g fresh ginger, peeled
15g garlic, peeled
1-5 dried, mild red chillies
2 cloves
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 green chilli, left whole
3-4 tablespoons malt or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
salt, to taste
350g small raw prawns, shelled and cleaned


  1. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic, red chillies and all the spices, using a little water until you achieve a fine paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and fry the onion until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and green chilli and fry for about 10–12 minutes over a moderate to high heat until the mixture becomes a deep burgundy colour. Add a splash of water whenever the pan runs dry.
  3. Add the spice paste and fry for about 5 minutes until the oil leaves the masala. Add the vinegar, sugar and a good amount of salt. Cook for another minute and taste for the balance of flavours. Adjust as you like.
  4. Add the prawns and cook for about 2 minutes until done. To keep as a pickle, store in sterilised jars in the fridge.
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