Prawn Balchao – A Goan Seafood Delight

Prawn Balchao

Prawn Balchão is one of the Goan favorite Seafood dish. Brought to Goa by the Portuguese, Balchão originated in Macao, where it is called Balichao. Balchao is a method of cooking either fish or prawns in a dark red and tangy sauce. Balchao is almost like pickling and can be made days in advance without reheating. The traditional Balchao uses a paste made from dried shrimp known as ‘galmbo’ in Konkani spices and feni(see below. This paste is added to fresh prawns, onion, spices and oil to prepare a prawn balchao. Balchao is often bottled and eaten as an accompaniment in meals. But many people leave out the dried shrimp paste as this lends a fairly strong fishy flavour to the dish.

Recipe 1 : Prawn Balchao

  • 1 kg small to medium-sized prawns (cleaned)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 2 large onions chopped fine
  • 3 large tomatoes chopped fine
  • 2 tbsps garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 10-12 dry red chillies
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2″ stick of cinnamon
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • Salt to taste


  • Put the prawns in a large bowl and sprinkle salt on them. Keep aside.
  • Roast the dry red chillies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves and cinnamon till they begin to release their aroma. Take off from the fire and cool.
  • Grind the ginger, garlic and roasted spices into a smooth paste using the vinegar.
  • Heat the oil on a medium flame in a wok-style pan. Add the prawns and stir fry till opaque. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, fry the onions till light brown. Add the tomato and fry till soft.
  • Now add the spice-vinegar paste, sugar and salt to taste and fry till the oil begins to separate from the masala.
  • Add the prawns to this masala, mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve with piping hot, plain boiled rice.


Recipe 2 : Prawn Balchao

  • Shelled prawns – 1/2kg
  • Cumin seeds – 1tsp
  • Peppercorns – 1tsp
  • Kashmiri chillies – 10
  • Vinegar to taste
  • Ground turmeric – 1tsp
  • Oil – 2tbs
  • Minced onions – 4
  • Curry leaves – handful
  • Finely chopped ginger – 1″ piece
  • Finely chopped garlic – 1pod
  • Finely chopped green chillies – 4
  • Salt to taste


  • Grind together the cumin, peppercorns and kashmiri chillies with the vinegar. Mix in the turmeric.
  • Heat oil and fry the onions till brown. Add prawns, ground masala, curry leaves, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes or until the prawns are cooked.