To say that I grew up in a mustard loving household would be a complete understatement. Just like a typical Bengali household, we regularly cooked with mustard oil and used freshly ground mustard paste to cook everything from vegetables to the bounty of fresh fish that was readily available in the market. And if that wasn't enough, we also got served a pungent mustard relish as a condiment to many of our meals. It would be impossible to walk through a neighborhood in Calcutta during lunch hour without smelling mustard in the air - someone was always cooking something with mustard!
This is a slightly modified version of the recipe I got from my mother - I decided to use some coconut milk to add creaminess that would cut through the sharp mustard flavor, added some scallions, ginger and garlic to add body to the sauce and the hint of citrus to round out the dish. It is ESSENTIAL that you heat up the mustard oil as I have detailed in the recipe - the sauce is way too pungent to have if you don't. You could easily substitute any kind of fish you want in this recipe, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. You could also steam the dish in a different manner - my mother uses a small, heavy container and floats it in a wok and then puts a lid on it; I have also cooked fish en papillote with this marinade. They all work fine! —Madhuja
shrimp, shelled, deveined, with tails off
finely chopped scallions
fat cloves of garlic, grated
freshly grated ginger
full fat coconut milk
zest of a lime and a tiny squirt of its juice
mustard oil, found in Indian grocery stores [see note]
In This Recipe
Mix all the ingredients, except for the mustard oil, in a bowl. Let the shrimp marinade for 15 minutes.
Add the mustard oil to a tiny skillet on medium heat. Let it warm up for a minute or so - you'll see it start to shimmer and then see little wisps of smoke. Immediately take it off the heat and let it cool. Once it has completely cooled, add it to the marinade and mix everything in gently.
While the shrimp is marinating, bring about 1/2 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Now turn down the heat for a gentle simmer and place a bamboo steamer on it. Add the shrimp in a shallow baking dish (I used a small pie dish), place it inside the steamer and put the lid on it. Steam until the shrimp is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes or so, depending on how large they are. Check for seasoning. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Note: a) You could substitute the mustard oil with regular vegetable oil, although the taste will not be the same. If you do, add 1 1/2 tablespoon of mustard powder in the recipe so that you are not missing out on the sharp mustard flavor.
b) ALWAYS, always heat mustard oil to a smoking point before you cook with it. This is an unbelievably pungent oil, it WILL make your eyes water and clear your sinuses if you try to have it without heating it properly. (Trust me - been there, done that). Don't burn the oil, though, as soon as you see the first wisp of smoke, take it off the heat.