- Prep time 35 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
Daab chingri—or literally, shrimp cooked in coconut—is a celebration of Bengali cuisine. Made with ingredients quintessential to coastal Bangladesh and eastern India, this dish is dubiously simple to make.
Slow-cooking shrimp in a rich sauce inside a whole coconut renders the most tender, buttery texture. The dough lid keeps steam inside, which infuses the shrimp with tons of flavor. As you might imagine, picking the right cooking vessel is perhaps the most important step. Husked, young coconuts can be found at specialty grocery stores and most Whole Foods. And if you can't find them in either place, depending on where you live, a lot of Vietnamese and Thai restaurants sell whole young coconuts, usually listed under the "drinks" section. No matter where you get them, make sure that the coconuts don’t have any cracks on the surface—that is an indication that the fruit has aged. A useful trick when picking them is to shake them a few times: You want to hear minimal to no sloshing, which guarantees a fleshy, jelly-like interior. If sloshing is audible, that means the water inside the coconut is reducing and it's beginning to dry out.
As for the flavor inside the coconut, black mustard seeds and mustard oil give daab chingri its lovely zing, and panch phoron—a Bengali whole-spice blend of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, mustard, and fennel seeds—lends to its wonderful aroma. Just about every South Asian grocery store carries panch phoron (though you can also make your own!), as well as mustard oil from South Asian brands. Note: The FDA recommends against consuming most mustard oil brands, due to their high levels of erucic acid. Yandilla has uniquely low erucic acid levels and is food-grade in the U.S., but if you'd prefer to not to go this route, extra-virgin olive oil also works. —Anikah Shaokat
Test Kitchen Notes
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large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
kosher salt, divided
fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
freshly squeezed lemon juice
black mustard seeds
full-fat coconut milk
6 to 8
Thai green chiles, divided
mustard oil (or 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil), divided
Cooked jasmine or basmati rice, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, turmeric, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate while you prepare the remaining elements.
- Lay the coconut on its side on a dry, sturdy surface. Using a sharp chef’s knife, shave the remaining white husk around the tip of the coconut until you see the brown inner shell. Use the point at the heel of your knife to crack open the coconut, when cut a hole approximately 2 inches wide. The shell is quite thin, so a few good taps around the point should let you pry it open. Pour the coconut water into a measuring cup and reserve for later. Repeat with the second coconut.
- Using a large spoon or an ice-cream scoop, scrape the coconut flesh from both coconuts. The texture of the flesh varies from jelly-like to more solid consistency depending on the age of the coconut—the younger it is, the softer it will be. Transfer the shells to a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Chop ¼ cup flesh and reserve (snack on the rest).
- To make the sauce, add the garlic, shallot, ginger, lemon juice, sugar, mustard seeds, coconut milk, cilantro, ¼ cup of the reserved coconut water, 2 to 3 chiles (depending on your spice preference), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of mustard oil (or 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil) to a blender. Blend until smooth.
- To create the dough lids, combine the flour and ½ cup of water and mix using your hands until a dough forms. Divide the dough into two equal rounds and, on a floured surface, roll them out into ¼-inch-thick disks large enough to cover the top of the coconuts. Place the disks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a dish towel.
- In a large frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons of mustard oil (or 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil) over medium-low heat. Add the panch phoron to the pan and fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the shrimp (reserve the bowl) and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing often, until the spices toast on the surface of the shrimp (the shrimp won't be cooked through).
- Return shrimp to the reserved bowl and pour in the blended sauce. Mix in the reserved coconut flesh. Fill the coconut shells with the saucy shrimp. Using the tip of your knife, carefully cut 2 to 3 chiles (depending on your spice preference) lengthwise so they are just slit, not completely halved. Evenly distribute the slit chiles in each shell (this technique allows the chilies to impart brightness to the dish without making it too spicy).
- Cover each coconut shell with the dough lids and crimp the edges using a fork so they are tightly secured. (If the dough sticks, you can dust it with flour.) Place both shells on a rimmed sheet pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the crusts are golden and the shrimp are cooked through. To check if the shrimp are cooked, create an X-shaped cut in the middle of the lid of one of the coconuts. Gently lift the pointy edges to create a small opening, then using a fork carefully take out a shrimp and check for doneness. If the shrimp is undercooked, push down the edges of the opening on the lid, or you can even place some aluminum foil on top, and return to the oven a few more minutes.
- To serve, cut out the dough disks and discard. Serve the shrimp and lots of sauce on top of warm jasmine or basmati rice with a squeeze of lime and the remaining green chiles, finely chopped, if you’re really into the heat.