Food is indeed a reflection of a region’s unique geography, culture and lifestyle. The cuisine of Goa is the very definition of this wonderful culinary tradition. Famous for its distinctive dishes, Goan food is a delicious combination of exotic Indian spices and traditional Portuguese cooking styles. It is old world fusion cuisine at its finest.
Goa is a serene and tranquil oasis located on the southwest coast of India in the Konkan region. Its cuisine is characterized by the abundance of fresh seafood and succulent coconuts.
Xacuti (pronounced “Sha-kooty”) is the quintessential Goan curry. It is a rich delicious blend of local spices and fresh coconut. Although the origins of this recipe are Portuguese in nature, the dish is completely Goan in taste and flavors. This dish can be made using chicken, meat, fish, squid or any shellfish such as shrimp, crabs, mussels, clams, even paneer or vegetables.
XACUTI CURRY MASALA
*1 lb chicken, boneless & skinless - cut into 1.5” pieces (or you can use any meat or substitute any seafood, vegetable or even paneer/tofu but cooking times will vary accordingly)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp tamarind pulp (or ½ tsp tamarind powder)
3-4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4-5 dried red chilies (Kashmiri variety preferred)
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
8-10 whole black peppercorns
2-3 star anise
2 inch stick of cinnamon
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
½ tsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp white poppy seeds
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt to taste
2-3 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
freshly grated coconut for garnish (optional)
In a deep skillet on medium low heat, dry roast the dried red chilies along with the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick, fenugreek seeds, sesame seeds and white poppy seeds. Keep stirring continuously until fragrant and aromatic, be careful not to burn the spices. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Let cool and using a spice grinder or clean coffee mill, blend all of the spices into a fine powder. Set aside until needed.
To the same deep skillet on medium high heat, add 1 tbsp of the oil and start to lightly brown the coconut along with the garlic. This may take a few minutes. Add the turmeric and let cook for another minute or so. Remove from the heat and allow the coconut and garlic mixture to cool. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree into a smooth thick paste, adding water as needed. Now, add the ground spices and blend together until smooth.
To the same deep skillet on medium high heat, add the remaining oil (2 tbsp). When hot, add the onions and stir fry until golden brown. At this point you can add the chicken or meat and allow to brown on all sides. Now, add the Xacuti masala paste along with the salt. Stir well to coat and add enough water to cover (approximately 2-2½ cups). Stir and add the tamarind. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, reduce the heat and let cook until the chicken is fully cooked through yet still moist and tender (20-30 minutes). If you are using lamb, this may take as long as 40-45 minutes.
If you are using fish, shellfish or any variety of seafood: make the curry first and then add the fish, squid, shrimp or scallops to the Xacuti curry and simmer uncovered for just 4-6 minutes on low. If you are adding mussels or clams: cover the skillet and allow to steam for 5-6 minutes or until done (mussels and clams have opened). For crabs: cover the skillet and allow to steam for 8-10 minutes. You basically want to gently poach the seafood in the curry until cooked and then serve immediately.
If you are using paneer: you can either brown them before adding to the Xacuti curry or if you prefer, just add them directly without browning. You can also add vegetables and allow them to simmer gently, covered on low for 10-15 minutes depending upon the vegetables. They should be cooked and tender but not mushy.
Just a minute or so before serving, add a little freshly grated nutmeg and stir well to combine. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and fresh coconut. Serve with fresh rotis and fragrant Basmati rice.