Prawn balchao pickle

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This recipe requires preparation in advance!

Prawn balchao (Prawn pickle - balchao is Portuguese for pickle). Although this recipe refers to the shellfish as prawns, they are actually shrimps, much smaller than prawns.

This version is made using dried shrimps, which you can get from any oriental wholesaler. Although they are dried, you will find them in the chill cabinet and need to be kept refrigerated. They are worth buying as they are a great addition to special fried rice.

Soak the dried shrimp for an hour in just-boiled water to rehydrate them. This also helps to wash off any dust and excess salt.

Leave for a few weeks to mature, this pickle is great as a condiment and even makes a great spread for sandwiches if you like it hot!

Prawn balchao pickle
Servings:Servings: 40 - Makes about 1 litre of pickle
Calories per serving:38
Ready in:45 minutes
Prep. time:30 minutes
Cook time:15 minutes
Recipe author:JuliaBalbilla
First published:2nd January 2013

Best recipe review

Fishy Pickle


Lovely with chips!

Paul R Smith

Prawn balchao as meal

I have had a requests from people for a prawn balchao meal recipe, rather than one for a pickle. I'm afraid that I have not been able to find any recipes that refer to prawn balchao as a finished dish. Even the wonderful "India" - Mr Pushpash Pent: ISBN 978-0714859026 states: "The dish is know for it's piquant character: It is more like a pickle relish and is consumed in moderation".

If anyone has any helpful information that may clear up this confusion, please do drop me a note via the Contact the Editor link above.--Jerry, aka Chef 18:14, 10 December 2012 (UTC)


Printable 🖨 shopping 🛒 list & 👩‍🍳 method for this recipe

Mise en place

  • Rinse the dried shrimp and leave to rehydrate for a few hours in just-boiled water. Drain, pat dry.


  1. Roughly chop the half of the shrimps, leaving the others whole
  2. Crush the garlic, chop the onions very finely
  3. Heat the oil in a wok and add the nigella seeds and let them fry for a few seconds, then immediately add the onions, garlic and ginger. Reduce the heat and fry for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Add the tomato puree, chilli powder, black pepper, salt and turmeric and stir-fry for a few minutes until well combined.
  5. Add the whole and chopped prawns, vinegar and sugar.
  6. Cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
  7. Taste and make the final adjustments so it suits your taste.
  8. Allow to cool and bottle in sterilised jars.

Chef's notes

This is fantastic - I can't see it surviving the 2 week maturation period!

When tinkering with the final seasoning I added a little more jaggery and the juice of a 2 limes which made the balance perfect for me. I made this batch with 1 tablespoon of black pepper but next time I would probably only use 1 teaspoon of black pepper.

I no longer keep fresh ginger, instead I buy in bulk from the ethnic supermarket and make my own very lazy ginger on a huge scale. As I use it up I am left with pints of ginger flavoured white wine vinegar so in this recipe I used that instead of malt vinegar.

I also used Turkish chilli flakes instead of chilli powder.

Peeling ginger

There is no need to peel ginger. As a result of attending a Thai cookery demo, we have learnt that peeling ginger is unnecessary unless for aesthetic purposes as the skin is high in fibre and full of flavour. However, do remove any bits that have become tough or woody.

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