Portuguese traders and explorers from the 16th Century should be thanked for the wonderful spicy Prawn Balchao to be created. They took spices, vegetables and shrimp paste from India to Macau where they were integrated into the local cuisine. During this time, Goa was a Portuguese colony until it joined India in 1959. “Bacalhau,” as it is called in Macau, was eventually created and taken to Goa where it evolved into the famous Prawn Balchao that is so popular in Indian cuisine today.
Goa is the smallest state in India as well as its richest state. Located on the western coast of the country along the Arabian Sea, Goa is a popular international tourist destination for beautiful beaches, historical sites, religious sites and fantastic food. Seafood is one of the most popular ingredients along with rice, coconut milk and kokum that is the fruit from the tree by the same name (also called the sour apple tree). Paste made from this fruit is used instead of tamarind to give a sour flavor to food. The food has also received some distinct influences from the Portuguese such as the use of chiles, tomatoes, potatoes and pineapples that they brought from Brazil.
Prepared with either fish or large shrimp, the Indian recipe for Prawn Balchao has a thick and tangy dark red sauce that is said to resemble an Indian pickle in its flavor and texture. It tastes sweet, sour and spicy all in one bite for a mouth-watering treat. The use of vinegar in this recipe should not be a surprise since the Portuguese were seafaring people who used it to preserve food. This Indian recipe is most often served with plain boiled rice so the rich flavors can be highlighted effectively. Sometimes you can find prepared Balchao Masala at Indian grocery stores that is made with cumin, red chiles, sugar and vinegar ground together to make a paste. I prefer to make the masala fresh; it doesn’t take much time at all.
The flavor of this Prawn Balchao recipe is so incredible that it is now my husband’s favorite Indian recipe! Try it at your next dinner party; you will receive rave reviews and requests from your guests for a repeat performance!
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