Dried Shrimp Chutney (Galmbyachi Chetni)

Dried Shrimp is quite a famous delicacy amongst fish lovers across the globe. So also in Mangalore where it is usually eaten during the Monsoons when fresh fish is unavailable as boats often do not venture out for fishing into the rough sea. While dried fish has it's own varieties, the most commonly available one being the dried Shark fish (which is chunky with a rubbery skin), Shrimp is just a class apart. We Catholic's call it Galmbo in Konkani and it is customary to make the Galmbyachi Chetni/Chutney at least once during the Monsoons. 

For those of you who are new to this, Shrimp is almost similar to Prawns but the difference is not in its size as commonly assumed, but in the gill structure. Dried Shrimp is nothing but Shrimp that is sun dried and shrunk to thumb size. It is frequently used in South East Asian cuisine and almost all of coastal cuisine, so little doubt that Mangalore loves it too. Shrimp Chutney tastes heavenly when eaten with Congee (Kanji/Rice gruel) and this is probably one of the simplest of all meals.

Today, we live in the era of refrigerators and deep freezers which help us store food for longer periods of time. Seasonal foods are no longer restricted to seasons as fresh food is imported from other places and made available to us in supermarkets. But in the olden days, people used to prepare for the Monsoons much  in advance. Fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf life (especially Ash Gourds, Madras Cucumbers, Snake Gourds, Garlic and Onions) were often tied up in ropes and hung from the ceiling in a special area or hallway near the kitchen. In Konkani these long hallways are often called as 'Sopo' - houses were often similarly designed, so every house in Mangalore had an open portico, the beams and roof supported by two pillars at the entrance. The portico would be thin strips of seating area with parapets and the main door right in the centre that led to the main living room. The kitchen area, dining area, bathrooms, store rooms and the 'Sopo' would often be on the left side of the living room and the bedrooms on the right side of the living room. So you see, if you entered anyone's home, you knew exactly how the layout was and you could head straight to one's kitchen to see what was cooking!

First Pic: Dried Shrimp before being washed. Second Pic: Dried Shrimp, washed and then dry roasted on a griddle/tawa

It is also important to note that the earlier generations used to have a house full of people - a few adults and at least a dozen kids, so it was technically impossible to feed such a battalion of people grand things every day. Congee was served almost everyday for breakfast or at least dinner and Shrimp was also one of the accompaniments served along with it apart from a host of other condiments such as chutneys, pickles, preserves and papads (poppadoms). So, the dried Shrimp formed part of the condiments that were regularly stored and found in kitchens all year round.

We had a yummy and simple meal a couple of days ago - brown rice congee served with this chutney, the combination and taste was simply heavenly!

Dried Shrimp Chutney
Serves 3

You Need:
For the masala
For the tempering/seasoning
1. Wash the shrimp carefully and squeeze it dry (or place on a fine slotted colander/sieve) and drain. Dry roast it for a couple of minutes on a tawa on a slow flame until it lets out a nice aroma. Keep aside. Dry roast the coconut the coconut on the same tawa till again it lets out a nice aroma and then mix the two.
2. Dry grind the red chillies, cumin and turmeric to a powder. Add the tamarind paste and the coconut and shrimp mixture and swirl the mixer for a few seconds. (Add just about 2 tsp water just to get the mixer jar moving). Do not grind it fine. It should remain coarse (shrimp should be coarsely crushed and not ground). Remove the chutney in a bowl.
3. Heat some oil in another pan and fry the sliced onions till golden brown. Add them to the shrimp chutney. Serve with piping hot Rice Congee/Kanji/Pez

You can increase the shrimps upto 100gm if you like a strong taste of shrimp. If you like it 'coconut-y' then add more coconut. Ideally for 50gm shrimps, 1 packed cup of grated coconut works fine. You can use the proportions as per your choice, just ensure you adjust the spice level accordingly

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