Prawn balchaun

Deepa sent me this delicious recipe. It is one of the tastiest prawn dishes I ever had. I thank her a lot for sendng me this. I prepared this dish for a small house party, all the dishes I prepared were Goan. Needless to say, everyone liked this dish and it got over within 2mins :D.

Following is some information sent by her :
Balchaun is pronounced as Bal- as in hair in hindi, chaun- As in “Chow” pronounced nasally, like a Chinese dish.

This recipe has Portuguese antecedents but is commonly made on special occasions in many hindu homes. We usually use slightly bigger prawns. As children we would clamor for it very often but becoz it was so time consuming to make, my mother would oblige our requests, only on special occasions. It goes very well with any pulao but we particularly enjoyed eating it with “paav”, which is a crusty, lumpy looking bread usually found in small bakeries in Goa. It is used to sop up all types of curries from “tondak” ( any legumes-coconut based curry) to “shakuti”( chicken and coconut masala). I think you get this particular bread all along the Konkan coast. The origin of this recipe is Portuguese and it’s usually the forte of Catholic cuisine but one of the rare Portuguese dishes also enjoyed by Goan hindus. Goan hindus usually turn up their noses at the use of vinegar in food preparation but for some reason are more forgiving when it comes to “Balchaun”. I must add though that the best “Balchaun” is likely to be found in a Catholic home in Goa :).

PS: Remember to add vinegar sparingly, slowly and to taste, becoz for persons not used to the acidic sharpness of this additive it can be a jolt. And try and use big prawns. In Goa we try and use Tiger prawns but they are probably either expensive here or not available easily. If you want to omit vinegar, go ahead but the authentic recipe does call for it.

Prawns 2 cups
Tomatos(medium) 1 cup
Coriander leaves 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder 1 tea spn
Peppercorns 10
Garlics 8 cloves
Cumin seeds 1 tea spn
Oil 1/2 cup
Onions(medium) 1 cup
Coriander seeds 1 tbl spn
Red chillies 8
Cloves 6
Cinnamon stick 2 1/2 cm
Ginger 2 cm.
Tomato ketchup 1 cup
White vinegar 2 tea spns

Apply tumeric powder and salt to to prawns and keep aside. Grind coriander seeds, red chillies, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon peppercorn, garlic, ginger to a fine paste.
Heat oil in a skillet and deep fry the prawns till brown. Keep aside.
Cut onions fine and fry in the same oil till they become soft. Add ground masala paste and fry until the mixture begins to give off a strong aroma. Cut tomatos into small pieces, add to the mixture in the pan and fry for only a few seconds. Add salt and fried prawns. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Then add tomato ketchup, mix slowly and well. Add white vinegar and mix well and cook for some time.
Granish with coriander leaves.

Serves : 6
Preparation time : 45min

I shallow fried the prawns instead of deep frying to suite my guest’s request to avoid deep fried items. Still the taste was great.

50 thoughts on “Prawn balchaun”

  1. This is one Goan dish which i have taken as my own, i just love it, love it, love it, i make it quite often, my recipe is just the same as yours, Oh, what a treat. Thank you for posting

  2. Hi Shilpa,

    I am not a Goan, but was entirely brought up in Goa and also I know to read, write and talk Konkani.

    I love Goan food, especially their fish curry, fish fry, chicken curry, hmmmm, my mouth really started watering by looking at your goan recipe photos.
    But here, in US, we don’t get fishes like mackerel, ishvan, pomfret…really am missing those.
    Was glad to find your blog with Goan recipes.

    Now to the question, in this recipe of Prawn balchaun, what is that Tomato sauce u have mentioned, is it tomato ketchup or something else..?

    And in the place where I live, I don’t get uncooked prawns…instead I get the medium-sized cooked frozen prawns…are these good to be used in your recipes? What I find is when I use these prawns for cooking they turn out sort-of rubbery, when I use to make curry. Any suggestions on this…?

    Looking forward for you reply. Ooh, can’t wait to try your recipes !

  3. Jay, Yes, I was referring to Tomato Ketchup (usually we call it as tomato sauce in India :D). You can use the frozen prawns. I tried them a few times here and could not get rid of rubbery texture. I even tried frying them for longer time to make them soft, but still I am clueless. I will ask some of my friends and if they know something, surely will keep u posted. Thanks

    1. Hi,
      I have heard that if you soak frozen prawn in salted water for sometime, maybe 15 – 30mins, then they taste just like the fresh prawns. I always use fresh prawns and have never tried this. Just thought this tip maybe helpful.

  4. Shilpa,
    The correct spelling is ‘ balchao’ 🙂
    Actually it also needs a tilde accent over the ‘o’.

    Nice site BTW.

  5. Shilpa …I have yet another yummy recipe for prawns! n’ wud like to share it with u! Its my Bapama’s n’ the most simplest, quick n’ connects well with our Kuldev dalithoy ! There goes Sungata talshilale!


    Prawns- washed n’ deveined 1/2 kg
    Garlic flakes about 8- crushed (dhadaka)
    tamarind water about 2-3 tbsp
    Chilli powder- 3 tsp

    Method: In a shallow pan, pour oil 2 big spoons. when hot add the chilli powder. then add the garlic flakes n’ the washed prawns. add salt. Do NOT add water. let it cook in its own water which it gives out in a while. Midway add the tamarind water. cook for a while till the water is absorbed yet not fully dry. very lil masala should be there. Serve hot with rice n’ dal..Yummmm

  6. Thanks for the recipe seema. This recipe is there on the site with the name “sungta phanna upkari”. One of my reader had sent it to me. I agree with you, it tastes great.

  7. hello everyone
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  8. Hi Shilpa,
    Is it possible for you to give the quantity of Onions & tomatoes in “cups” instead of nos.?I’m asking ‘coz the size ‘medium” is not very easy to identify-each person has his/her own version of it.So,if you could give the measures,even approximately,by measuring cups,it will be easier….Just a thought.
    BTW,just finished cooking your Prawn Balchaun.Came out great.Thanks.

  9. Sumi, yes I too realised that point after sometime. So all my new recipes have measurements in cups. But old recipes still have the measurements in numbers :(. I will try my best to change them one by one whenever possible.
    Thanks for your feedbacks about this recipe, I am so happy to know you liked them.

  10. Hi Shilpa,
    I am goan too and grew up eating goan food. Now that I am away from home, I miss Goan food and try to make it at home as much as possible from your recipes. Do you know how to make sungta Dangar? My aunt made these shrimp pancakes and I loved them.


  11. Hi Shilpa,

    I’m currently living in Wellington, NZ with my hubby and cooking is our day’s highlight as we both love doing it. Stumbled on your blog via Arun’s and have spent the last couple of hours drooling over your recipes. Excellent work! Keep it up… Just needed to ask, the red chillies you mention sometimes are they dry red chillies like ones used in tadka sometimes or something else? Haven’t found fresh red chillies here, but the green ones suit my purpose well.

    – Thanks in advance!

    Shilpa: Mona, the red chilies used in all my cooking is the dried red chilies available in Indian stores(which we also use for tadka). I have never used fresh red chilies anytime.

  12. Hi Shilpa,

    This is an awsome recipe. I tried making it and the result was very good. I used frozen shrimp and I didn’t have the rubbery taste. Shrimp develop a rubbery taste when cooked too much, atleast thats my theory.

    Thanks once again for such wonderful recipe.

  13. Hi Shilpa

    I live UK and have made quite a few receipes from yr site. I am an eastindian and balchaun i know is made out of small prawns which the fisherwomen in Mumbai sell. It is made of the dry one too which is called as zawla. My mum has prepared some and given me and all that i need to do is cut a lot of onions and add this balchaun with our famous eastindian masala called `bottle masala’ (Dont know if you heard of it) There we have balchaun ready. It goes well with pulav rice or hichidi as we call it india.

  14. I have just made Prawn Balchaun. As you can see by my name, I am of Goan extract. But I am a UK resident and sometimes ingredients can have different names. In the recipe 1 Cup Tomato Sauce is listed, do you mean Tomato Ketchup? Or is Tomato Sauce what we call Tomato puree here? I have used Tomato Ketchup and it has made the dish a little less pungeant.
    Sorry, posted this wrongly in the Bhel comments

  15. Not having a good day here. I see you have already answered my Tomato Sauce Question. Sorry, I will read this more thoroughly in future.
    Terry, Prawn Balchao in Bombay used to be a rather tasty and spicy Prawn based pickle. We used to be able to buy it in UK in the Ferns or Patak brand. But then the European food Police decided that the prawns were dried in unhygienic ways so they banned the import of it. It was the same for Bombay Duck!! Sigh…. I really miss these treats.

  16. As far as rubbery Prawns are concerned, I have found the only way to avoid this, is to use peeled, raw (Grey) Prawns. Using the pre-cooked (Pink) Prawns and then re-cooking them in the curry, is asking for rubbery prawns, cooking them longer, seems to make them even more rubbery. I went out to the fish market today and bought raw prawns, I just added the turmeric powder to the plastic bag the prawns came in and gave them a good shake, after half an hour I used the turmeric marinated prawns in my Prawn Balchaun as instructed.

  17. Thanks lot. It is favourite dish for me. We cook this food to use the receipe which was published in Gulfnews.Later we lost the receipe. Today finaly I got it. We use tamarind paste in place of tomato sause and we mix the vinegar while grinding the spices. But it is very delecious food.

  18. Shilpa, I tried out this recipe yesterday. It turned out awesome! I was a little skeptical going into the process because I’ve tried to make prawn balchao once before from another recipe I found online, which turned out to be a disaster. So I was overjoyed when this recipe turned out perfect! This ones a keeper! Thanks a bunch!

  19. Dear Shilpa/Deepa,

    Once upon a time I was a very bad cook. Inviting guests home was next to impossible for me. Especially salt is my great enemy as far as perfection is concerned. I preferred to treat them out. Gradually I came across many recipe sites but never found this particular recipe I was longing for.

    Thanks a ton Shilpa for providing this mouth watering recipe. I love prawns more than anything else. In Dubai we get tiger prawns, big and fresh.

    You may send me more recipes at nazneen dot khwaja at yahoo dot com if possible.

    I am from Konkan, Maharashtra, born and brought up in Bombay. In October planning to visit Bombay. In case I visit Kudal/Sawantwadi, I would try to meet you.

    Thanks again Shilpa.

    Kind Regards


  20. Hi Shilpa,
    I was trying this recipe.
    I have a question for you.
    The cinnamon stick must be in the ground masala paste right?
    I added it to the paste.
    Sorry I am new to this. Appreciate your help.

    Shilpa: Yes, that is right.

  21. I prepared this recipe today n it turned out real good … thanx for sharing such wonderful recipes n keep up the great work 🙂

  22. hi shilpa,
    today i prepared this recipe.
    tikshe,amshe,midshe,godshe phoora taste assa hantu wow
    i added little water, is it ok ?

  23. Hi shilpa,
    I want to try the recipie but was a little worried about the quatity of onions and tomatoes. isnt it too much. just wanted to confirm.

    1. This recipe was written long ago when I was in India, the onions I used there were very small compared to ones available in US. i will update the recipe with measurements in cups.

  24. you can get mackarel in the US – both Boston & Spanish kind in any fish market.

    You can get Pomfret in Chinatown , also fresh Bombil ($5.99 per lb.- I usually buy 4-5 lbs , crisp fry/ freeze them) from China. Used to get black pomfret – Halwa but no more. Also, in Chinatown, live shrimp from US – $11 a pound but well worth it. Check out Chinatowns for these fish – also Surmai aka Kingfish which is really a large Macarel.

  25. Hi,
    This recipe is really delicious. I tried it today, since I didn’t have vinegar I used Soy sauce and I was amazed at the results.

  26. Hi Shilpa,

    After 6 months I am visiting your site and I was surprised to see new look. I am also finding it difficult to search recipes. Earlier I used to search by category.. Any tips?

    1. There is categories dropdown on the left bar. Also, you have a “All recipes and posts” menu on top where you can see all the recipes on the blog.

  27. Hi Shilpa,
    Are you from Sawantwadi?

    If yes then I have one query and request for you. I am looking out for a monthly lunch box facility for my old parents. Do you have any idea who provides such facility at Sawantwadi. I will really appreciate if you let me know about it at your earliest.


  28. Hi Shilpa,

    Just came to know u r from my Mothers native place Kumta….
    so happy to knw that…would love to meet u once atleast..
    The receipe site is really amazing for everyone to learn new things especially the newly married couples…I have shared tis site with couple of my friends…
    I am surely going to try tis prawns balchaun recipe on weekend….
    Awaiting ur reply..


  29. i tried out dis prawn Balchaun….. man it sooo yummmy… a just cook for everybdy…. thank you soo much for the recipe… keep it up…:)

  30. shweta prabhu verleker

    I had tried something similar, but with egg in it (egg balchaun), I am gonna make this, my husband will love it. thanks for sharing the recipe.

  31. Awesome recipe…must say just mouth watering…This Sunday i am going to try it as my husband is very much fond of prawns and he always wanted something new in dinner…
    thanks for helping me with the new try and keep going I would love to read more nonveg recipes from your end

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