NOW you wouldn’t want to eat it raw but when cooked it makes food taste like the stuff they must serve up in Heaven. Your starter for ten if you can guess what it is.
It’s an ugly, pointy-looking fruit which is green and nobbly and looks a little like an oversized lime but is called a wild orange. It’s as sour as a Seville but has a touch of the grapefruit about it. But the taste belies its looks. If you knew this is the shatkora you must be from Bangladesh because that is where it grows.
I’ve never seen on in the flesh, so to speak, but I have tasted it three times in curries at the PrithiRaj on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, and on each occasion my tastebuds have gasped with delight.
I reckon the shatkora is the Bengali answer to the truffle. Its flavour pervades and enhances a dish. In the curries at the PrithiRaj it has a polite sort of tang which sidles across your tastebuds, not harsh and rasping, with a touch of lemon or lime. And there’s an unexpected, momentary little burst of sweetness right at the end. Flavours are vivid. The sauces are rich and grainy and the meat tender, even when it’s lamb, because this is a curry which must be cooked for a long time to get the most out of the fruit.
Celebrity chef Rick Stein discovered it on his TV travels in India but when he got back to Cornwall to cook it had to make do with a grapefruit.
I first came across it in 2012 when reviewing the newly opened restaurant, which had been revamped from the long-established Ayesha’s, for the Sheffield Star. I was bowled over. Dining there with friends earlier this year I ordered the lamb version again, wondering if it would be as good. It was. But because I was too busy talking I couldn’t give it my full attention. I resolved to come back again on a quieter evening.
This time I tried the chicken version with my companion, Colin Drury, who also reviewed restaurants on Saturdays during his time at The Star, for whom a curry isn’t a curry unless it’s a karai.
Now this isn’t the only place in Sheffield where you can get a shatkora – try other places run by Bengali rather than Kashmiri kitchens – but it is the only one cooked by head chef and joint owner Sobuj Miah. And, at £10.50, it is probably the most expensive. The menu at PrithiRaj (which means Beautiful Princess or whatever the waiter you ask decides) is as long as the River Ganges but you’ll find it on the specials.
I’m told only the peel is used – the pulp is so bitter it usually get thrown away – but I understood Sobuj to say he used the whole fruit. Whatever, he only needs to use a little bit in each dish. It seems its popularity comes in fits and starts. “We’ve sold about 10 or 12 in recent weeks,” he told us.
Now PrithiRaj, which once had a waiter called Elvis, is an upmarket kind of place and the cooking is beautifully judged and easily on a par with any middle market Anglo venture. And like any chef, Sobuj likes to do the odd twiddle and twirl: As with the dainty spiced-up miniature samosa, whispy onion bhajis and little meat ‘lollipops’ we were treated to.
Look the ingredient up on the menu the next time you go out for an Indian – it’ll be on the specials and is not limited to meat, it also goes well with fish and other seafood – and you should find you’ll like it.
407 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield S11 8PG. Web: http://www.prithirajrestaurant.com