Goan Prawn Balchao | Hot & Sour Prawn Pickle

Known in Goa as balchao, this spicy prawn pickle is great as part of a simple meal but also good on its own with bread or rice. You can make it with large king prawns, or little prawns, as you like. In Goa, it’s often made with sungta – crushed dried prawns. It has a rich and salty savouriness that’s rather addictive!

The recipe is from Maunika Gowardhan’s Thali cookbook, which shares a wide variety of Indian recipes suitable for enjoying as part of a thali or on their own.

Goan Prawn Balchao | Hot & Sour Prawn Pickle

Read our full review of Thali by Maunika Gowardhan.

Goan Prawn Balchao | Hot & Sour Prawn Pickle

My mother would make jars of her balchao recipe for the family. Most times I loved eating it in a simple thali with dal, rice and salad but as spicy pickles go this one is good just on its own, too. I have used king prawns, and chopped them roughly, but you could use small prawns instead. A lot of Goan households also add a small portion of crushed dried prawns, known as sungta. This lends a unique umami, salty flavour that can be tricky to replicate. Here, I have used fish sauce, which makes this a flavour bomb!
Servings 4 people
Author Maunika Gowardhan


  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5 cm (2 in) ginger root, roughly chopped
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz/ scant ⅔ cup) vegetable oil
  • 260 g (9½ oz) white onions, finely chopped
  • 12 curry leaves, roughly torn
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp dark soft brown sugar or jaggery
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 660 g (1 lb 7 oz) king prawns, shelled and roughly chopped (this can be done in a food processor as well)
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

For the chilli paste

  • 12 dried red Kashmiri chillies, soaked in plenty of warm water for 30 minutes
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 80 ml (2½ fl oz/scant ⅓ cup) malt vinegar


  • To make the chilli paste, drain the chillies and add them to a blender, along with the remaining paste ingredients. Blend to a smooth, fine paste, then remove and set aside. Blend the garlic and ginger in the same blender with a splash of water and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based, non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 20–22 minutes until they begin to change colour and soften.
  • Add the curry leaves and turmeric, along with the garlic and ginger paste, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chilli paste and fry for a further 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, then add the sugar and salt. Stir well and fry for 1 minute, making sure the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the prawns at this stage, then cover and cook for 8–9 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the fish sauce and stir well. Leave to cool, then decant into steralised jars and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 10 days in the fridge.
  • You can serve the balchao warm or cold – I love it cold, simply with a fresh, white bread roll.

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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Thali: A Joyful Celebration of Indian Home Cooking by Maunika Gowardhan from publisher Hardie Grant. Photography by Louise Hagger. 

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