Have you been to Goa? You must if you haven't. Its not just the tropical heaven or the beach paradise its made out to be. Goa has a certain oomph factor that can only be experienced but not described. Endless stretches of beautiful beaches and water, tall palm trees, quaint Portugese style churches, bustling markets and of course the famous 'sosegade' attitude which translates to why do something now, when you can do it later. Do you need any more reasons to go to place a like this? I would be ready to move there as soon as possible and I haven't even started on the food yet!
Goa was a Portugese colony when the rest of India was under the British rule and the food bears evidence to strong Portugese influence. Especially in sweet sounding dishes like xacuti, sorpotel and vindaloo. These unique dishes combine Indian spices with vinegar in some cases, palm sugar in others and olive oil in still others. Of course no description of Goan food would be complete without mentioning the seafood. Some of the best seafood I have ever had has been in Goa. But if I have to do it justice, then it has to be a different post.
I last visited Goa in December 2005 and had some of the most memorable meals there. One such meal was in a restaurant which was literally on the beach! The tables were on the sand and you sat facing the water. If you stayed long into the night, you had the warm sea water grazing your feet. And of course the food was amazing. Sigh, I didn't want to leave!
To recreate the Goan food experience minus the beach I was on the lookout for Goan cookbooks for a while. After extensive research my Dad sent me this one: The Essential Goa cookbook by Maria Teresa Menzes. I loved reading this book with its witty anecdotes on Goan lifestyle and great recipes and this weekend I finally got around to trying something out of it. This chicken xacuti recipe is a shorter version from this book.
Xacuti is a really spicy chicken curry. The book recipe called for grinding together three different sets of ingredients. By any standard this is quite a long process. I tried to shorten it a little bit by using the ready made garam masala instead of grinding it fresh. The only ingredient I thought would be missing from this masala powder was fennel which I ground fresh and used. This is definitely a recipe with some amount of effort but the end result is sure worth it. Even if you are not sitting on a beach while eating it.
1 kilo chicken, cut into pieces
1 and half large onion
1/2 cup grated coconut
3 green chillies
3 large garlic cloves
2" piece of ginger
handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tablespoon fennel powder
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
salt to taste
- Grind together the green chillies, ginger, garlic and cilantro to make a paste.
- Clean chicken and marinate with the paste above. Keep aside.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry half the sliced onion till its golden brown. Add the grated coconut and also saute till brown.
- With a little water, grind the onion and coconut mixture into a smooth paste.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat oil and add the rest of the chopped onion.
- Cook till onion is golden brown. Add a teaspoon of sugar to caramalize the onions.
- Add all the spices, including garam masala, red chilli, turmeric and fennel powder. Also add salt and mix well cooking for another couple of minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ground coconut and onion mixture and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Add tamarind pulp dissolved in water and bring to a boil again. Cook covered till chicken is cooked tender.
- Add lemon juice before serving. Serve with rice or chappatis.