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Chingri Begun-er Tel Jhol: Spicy Shrimp Curry with Eggplants


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It is not always the length or the kind of ingredients that makes a recipe perfect. It is also the state of mind.  Or even how our life gets shaped. Myriads of experiences, even the ones that are forgotten, seemingly erased from memory make indelible prints somewhere unseen. Then they whisper in unison, orchestrating that “feeling”, that satisfaction of what we expect from a  perfect recipe. However this is very personal. The culture and the environment can be a thread that connects certain people to like similar things. But even after that it is a personal decision.

Like this dish. The familiar flavors of nigella seeds hitting the smoking mustard oil, the aroma emitted by the sizzling fresh chilli peppers slowly turning brown and of course the shrimp, bring in that sense of perfection for me even before the dish is done. I just know it that I will love it, no matter what. My children loved it too. In fact they opted out of the crepe and fruit compote dinner I had planned for them the night before. We must have struck a similar chord somewhere in loving it. Yet not all the chords. They are not yet accustomed lovers of nigella and green chilli hitting the strong, golden mustard oil. They do not sense the same enchantment as I do. Not yet.  Their reasons for a “perfect meal” was not exactly the same as mine. It was still something they loved.

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This is perhaps the reason why some people like a dish cooked in all perfections, while others might not.

The combination of eggplants and shrimp (Begun Chingri) is not unusual in Bengali cuisine. However every home has their own recipe. The kind I grew up with is a dry mishmash of eggplant with kNucho chingri or tiny shrimps in them. The tiny  indecipherable shrimps are almost unknown here. They are caught in the local water bodies back home. Small they might be, but the full bodied flavors they have are hard to beat. I miss them.

I have used the smallest shrimp available here. What I had wanted out of this was a pickle (Indian pickle!) like texture with not so much sauce as you see here. That is how it works best with the softened eggplant becoming a a part of the sauce and the little shrimps. But when I realized that the shrimps I used cannot substitute the ones I wanted, I went ahead and kept the extra sauce. Not that it could not be done with less sauce, but this seemed more appropriate at that moment.

In the last post I mentioned what inspires me to cook. This time it was a food conversation on Facebook. Sharmila of Kitchen e Kichu Khonn posted a photo of the kNucho Chingri, the tiny shrimp, asking what could be done with them. This dish was screaming in my head. I dropped everything and  I scooted to my kitchen to make my own. I could not see myself eating anything else but this. In about thirty minutes I was done cooking. I went ahead and shared it with Sharmila, who in turned cooked it the very next day. Hers looked more like what I had in mind: cooked with the little shrimps and  with a slick layer of oil. I did not write the exact proportions of the recipe to her. It was just what I used and a sketchy procedure. She knew what to do.

The familiarity of the culture I suppose.

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The recipe is really simple. There is no spice used other than nigella. But this one spice along with the hot green chilli pepper are of utmost importance. It helps to have tender, fresh eggplants with very little seeds. The use of kNucho Chingri or the littlest shrimps, bring out the best flavors. But just in case if you do not find them, like I did not, go ahead and use whatever is available. No recipe should be bypassed just because the exact ingredients are not available. A variation is sometimes as good!



Chingri Begun-er Tel Jhol: Spicy Shrimp Curry with Eggplants

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a side)

  1. 12 oz small shrimp, shelled and de veined
  2. about 2.5 – 3 cups (8 oz measure) eggplants chopped in small 1/2 inch pieces (I used about three fourth of a medium sized American eggplant)
  3. 1.5 tablespoon oil (pref. pure virgin mustard oil)
  4. 1/2 – 1 tablespoon mustard oil to drizzle during finishing the dish (skip this if no mustard oil is available: this is for flavor boost)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds/kalonji
  6. 2-3 hot green chilli peppers, slit (remove seeds and membrane if you do not like spicy)
  7. 2 teaspoons turmeric
  8. 1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder (more or less to taste)
  9. salt to taste
  10. lots of fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish
  11. red crushed pepper for garnish – optional

Note: If you using the nano/tiny shrimp, sometimes it is impossible to shell them, depending on the size you have. It would be just easier to leave them just the way it is and cook them with their soft shell. 



Prepare the shrimp, wash and pat dry. Add half teaspoon turmeric, a half teaspoon red chilli powder and a little drizzle of salt to the shrimp, toss well and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes.

Chop the eggplants, sprinkle half teaspoon turmeric and about 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss to coat and set aside.

In about 12 oz warm water (one and a half cup), combine the rest of the turmeric and the rest of the  chilli powder and  set aside.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan or wok and add the marinated shrimp in the hot oil. Quickly cook for only a couple of minutes until they curl and turn orange. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan heat one tablespoon oil. Add the nigella seeds and the slit green chilli peppers. When the seeds sizzle and the peppers start turning brown, add the eggplants and cook them in high heat until they partially soften.

Stir the water with the spices that you had set aside and add this mix to the eggplants. Cover and cook until the eggplants are very tender. Uncover and add the sauteed shrimp. Toss and cook for about 3-4 minutes. At this point, if you may add more water if you want more sauce. Enough to coat the eggplants and the shrimp and a little bit more is just right.

Once done, finish off with about a tablespoon of mustard oil for extra flavor. Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro and more fresh green chilli peppers and crushed pepper if you want.

The finished look should be orange red to red (depending on the kind of chilli powder you are using) with a slick of oil.

Best served over hot rice. But I will leave it to you to find creative ways to serve this!


Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: : Less than 30 minutes

Serves 4

Difficulty Level: Very Easy


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15 comments to Chingri Begun-er Tel Jhol: Spicy Shrimp Curry with Eggplants

  • Awesome! I want that jhol too. Next time. Yes I will make it next time … no matter how much time those tiny things take to clean. Much thanks for this simple yet fabulous recipe Soma. Now I am inspired to make a post … but will never be able to write and describe so beautifully. :-)

  • Wonderful shots! I’m a big fan of egg plants and try to use it in most of the recipes. Inspired by your combination, I’ll make it soon.

  • I have never tasted this type of preparation with shrimp, although my mum in law does with Koi maach and Ilish Maach. Sounds very delicious and something that needs to be dug into by hand ‘kobji dubiye khaoa jake bole’!

  • mohana

    this is a MUST for me….!! cant think of cooking anything else , the next day I do chingri !

  • God how much I love these small shrimps. These look delicious.

  • I must say, I love shrimp and aubergine, but I’ve never thought of combining the two! I am Pakistani and we generally don’t cook shrimp with anything else. I think the texture of the aubergine would compliment the shrimp fantastically! Can’t wait to try this out soon – hopefully some day when I have another curry prepared since my husband doesn’t open up to new food combinations easily! ;)

  • Something funny happened on Saturday. I saw your post during the week and then totally forgot about it (it actually went in my sub-conscious mind). On Saturday we found gorgeous fresh shrimps from a seafood market and bought them instantly. They were super fresh and I didn’t want to cover them with spices. For dinner, I cooked them with eggplants. But I kept thinking why did I use eggplant? I never had them before? Now I realized, it must have been your post (which I read only the heading), which was embedded in my mind somewhere. As I forgot about your recipe, I made something different. I started with nigella seeds and dry red chilies and then added water and turmeric. Then after vigorous boiling, added the head on shrimps (which were lightly sauteed before), cubed eggplants and strained mustard seed paste. It was a soupy, very flavorful dish, very new to me. Very refreshing and different from the usual recipes.

  • I love this recipe. The only setback is I cannot get nigella seeds/kalonji near where I live. So I have to cook without it.

  • I have not tried shrimp yet. Hope it taste good. Anybody tasted it ??

  • Hi Soma,

    I truly agree with your comment that “No recipe should be bypassed just because the exact ingredients are not available”. I love all the recipes with kuncho Chingri, but actually deprived of that. Definitely I would like to give this a try with bigger size available here. Your “Chingri Begun er Tel Jhol” or Begun diye Chingri mach looks very glossy & tempting. Being a typical Bong, I think adding aloo will enhance the taste… :)

  • [...] love love LOVE the idea of combining prawns and aubergine, like done here at e-Curry! I think I will be putting my own spin on this curry [...]

  • mohana

    amazing !!

  • hie…
    I’m forever drooling over ur photos…but i’m a veggie.
    Is there any suitable vegetarian substitute to ur lovely curries?

    No idea if there can be substitute for shrimp. you can use potatoes instead or even paneer. It will not be the same but will still be good!

  • Just Mouthwatering! My family loves this…. soon i will cook with your recipe. I know it takes too much time to clean this chingri…but still i will cook it.. Many thanks this chingri recipe easy but fabulous recipe.

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