Nachiketa DasSide DishBengalikochupata, chingri, kochu shak chingri, prawns, colocasia leaves
- Chingri/Prawns – 250 gm
- Kochu Pata (Colocasia/Taro/Arbi leaves) – 5 (medium sized)
- Grated coconut – 2 table spoon
- Mustard paste – 1 table spoon
- Poppy seed paste – 1 tea spoon
- Green chilies – 3 (±1 as per taste)
- A pinch or two of turmeric
- Salt as per taste
- Mustard oil
- Lemon juice – 2 table spoon
- Devein the prawns and cut them in pieces. Check for tips at the end of the blog to know a little trick.
- Add a pinch of salt and turmeric to the prawns, mix well, and them set aside for 10 minutes.
- Thoroughly wash the colocasia leaves and finely chop them.
- Boil the chopped leaves for 5-6 minutes with a table spoon of salt and half of the lemon juice. This process will remove the usual itch-in-the-throat that colocasia leaves cause otherwise.
- Take the grated coconut, mustard paste, and green chilies together in order to grind them to a paste.
- Heat mustard oil in a pan. When the oil is smoking hot, add the prawns and lightly fry for a minute in low flame.
- Add the coconut-mustard-chili paste, poppy seed paste, and salt into the mixture, as per your taste. Cook it for 2-3 minutes.
- Squeeze the water out of the boiled colocasia leaves and add them to the pan.
- Cover the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add a tea spoon of mustard oil and a table spoon of lemon juice, give it a good stir and bam, you’re ready to serve your kochupata chingri, hot.
Portrait of Nachi as a Bengali Grandmother
For those of you who already don’t know it, Nachi is basically a doting Bengali grandmother. He knows way more than me about Bengali literature. His knowledge of Hindu mythology, especially the ones commonly known in Bengali folklore is enviable. And most importantly, he has magically learnt how to make a lot of typically traditional East Bengali delicacies though his family is hardcore Ghoti (West Bengali). So of course, he has tried his hand at making everything from kochupata chingri to chitol machher muithya by himself. In fact, I have tasted many Bangaal (east Bengali) delicacies through his cooking for the first time. Though my entire family on both maternal and paternal sides are east Bengalis by origin, they have never cared to cook our heritage food for their beloved child i.e. Me. Sigh. Life can be quite ironical at times and this is definitely one of them.
Kochupata Chingri in Kasturi
Ever since I had kochupata chingri at Kasturi, Calcutta in 2014, I have been meaning to find it all over in Bangalore. I like it so much that every time I visit Calcutta, I make sure to stop by any branch of Kasturi and get a taste of it again just to refresh my memory of it. Last year, for the very first time, I had taken Nachi to Kasturi as well and of course I had ordered kochupata chingri there. A big part of our relationship is about our shared love for food and so whatever each of us love to eat becomes a part of ourselves. And we can’t wait to make the other a part of that too. Nachi has gotten me to like panta bhaat, I have gotten him to like pabda shorshey. I was a bit scared this time, though. Kochu or kochu shak is an acquired taste. What if Nachi didn’t like it? But putting my mind at ease, he finally tasted it and loved it so much that he started looking for ways to make it at home. Ah, the joys of having a food loving partner is infinite and I have very much enjoyed the process of converting his palate to a fairly Bangaal one in all these years as well.
The Search for Kochupata
Kochupata is not easy to find in Bangalore. I mean, what would you even ask for in the local supermarket or sabzi mandi? “Give me a bunch of colocasia leaves, please?” NO ONE is that anglicized! To call it kochupata is out of the question, as well. In fact, both Nachi and I had given up but due to all the research we had already done on kochupata, when Nachi came across a bunch of leafy vegetables in the HAL market while buying fish, he recognized at once that one of them was kochupata. He googled it to confirm and bam! And just like that, he became the proud owner of some fresh kochupata, all geared up to make our beloved kochupata chingri. He immediately bought some chingri (prawns) from the market as well and came home with a big smile. The uninitiated wouldn’t understand, but this was nothing short of sweet, sweet victory for him. And he decided to celebrate it immediately by trying his hand at this scrumptious Kasturi delicacy.
The Perfectionist Chef
Whenever Nachi cooks, I give him space. Before, when we were newly married and had just started living together, I used to make the common mistake of trying to be nice and help him, Mr. Pain-in-my-ass Perfectionist, quite often. It didn’t turn out well. Half the time, I ruined things. Even when I didn’t, I couldn’t meet his unrealistic standards. So, I have started a new policy of ‘help only when asked, that too on my own terms’. This has proven to be beneficial so far and I hope it continues this way.
While Nachi slogged inside the kitchen over our beloved kochupata chingri, I enjoyed watching TV and browsing through social media, occasionally cheering him on. But of course, from a distance. He would sometimes call me to do a dish or two and then inevitably get annoyed because I didn’t do it right. Yes people, he is incorrigible. Please don’t be swayed by his quiet nature and sweet smile, you poke the perfectionist dragon, and thou shalt be rendered from thy flesh into mere ashes.
Aaaaand we got served
After around half an hour, even before Nachi could come and tell me that his kochupata chingri is ready, I knew he is done. When you live in a household that’s always bustling at its kitchen, you develop an acute sense of smell that tells you when a dish is done just from the aroma that starts at the kitchen and then wafts across all rooms.
And well, it was everything I thought it would be and more. Much to my delight, I was served less kochupata and more chingri, just the way I like it. You take some steaming white rice, put that concoction of oil, prawns and kochupata flavoured with a strong yet sweet mustard paste on top of it, mix it at the cost of burning your delicate fingers and then put it in your eager, already salivating mouth. Ah, it has been days since he made it but the taste still lingers. There were also other wonderful additions to this meal like shukto, my mother’s famous Topshey fish fry and some fish kalia. But I was so overwhelmed by Nachi’s kochupata chingri that day that my brain barely registered any other flavor. Like I said, he makes every Bengali grandmother very, very proud.
Cool Grandma’s science-y tips for Kochupata Chingri
[Note: Nachi forced me to add this at the end in case these tips help anyone. Feel free to ignore 🙄 ]
- Cutting prawns horizontally halfway makes for smaller but thicker pieces. Cutting them lengthwise into half makes for thinner and longer pieces which ends up in a spiral fold after cooking. So, choose wisely.
- When we consume colocasia or kochupata, we often feel an itch or slight discomfort in our throat. This is caused in part by microscopic needle shaped crystals of calcium oxalate monohydrate. Lemon juice or any form of mild acid dissolves these crystals and reduces the effect. Keep a piece of lime handy while eating, in case just boiling the leaves was not enough.
For those like me who know of the beauty of kochupata chingri and want to have more of it, please, please try this at home. We’ll love to hear about your experiences.