Benefitting from several world influences, Goan cuisine gets its rich, spicy and intensely flavourful offerings. The state’s tropical climate and the easy availability of coconuts ensure that the versatile fruit makes its way into local food. The star of Goa’s range of coconut-based dishes is the Chicken Xacuti (pronounced sha-ku-ti). Starring tender pieces of meat engulfed in a dry sauce of roasted spices and coconut, each morsel highlights an intense complexity of flavours. Taking its name from the Portuguese word ‘chacuti’, literally translates to ‘dark brown’, the Goan version of the dish is red in colour.
Chef Silvanus, Chef de Partie at Le Méridien Goa, Calangute shares the origin story of Chicken Xacuti, “The Saraswat Brahmin women were the original custodians of this Goan dish.” Originally called ‘shaguti’, it was after the arrival of the Portuguese, that this dish managed to hog some culinary limelight. The dish was renamed Xacuti, owing to the colonialists’ accent and dialect, we’re told.
While the proportions of the spices and other ingredients used in the making of this dish vary from household to household, Chef Silvanus says that grated coconut, cloves, cinnamon stick, poppy seeds (Khus Khus), mace, star anise, onion, green chili, black pepper and dried Kashmiri chilli, are the staple spices used in a Goan Xacuti recipe. He also reveals the secret of the smokey flavour of a Xacuti gravy: Coconut is nicely fried with onions and green chillies to release all the nutty goodness into the Xacuti gravy.
If you’re salivating, then take notes from Chef Silvanus as he helps you decode the traditional Chicken Xacuti
1 kg chicken
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
2 inches of ginger
10 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch coriander
5 green chillies
First Xacuti Masala Paste
1 tsp groundnut oil
2 sliced onions
2 green chillies
5 cloves garlic
1 grated large coconut
1/2 bunch of coriander
Second Xacuti Masala Paste
2 inches cinnamon
3 peeled cardamoms
1 tsp aniseed
1 tsp black pepper corn
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
8-10 Kashmiri red chillies
1 star anise
1 maize flower
1/4 piece nutmeg
1/2 inch turmeric
2 tsp groundnut oil
2 sliced onions
2 slit green chillies
1/4 cup water
1. Transfer your washed and cleaned curry-cut chicken to a bowl. Next, rub some salt and turmeric powder all over the chicken.
2. Make the marination paste by mixing together the ginger, garlic, coriander and chillies and use this to marinate your chicken. Let rest for at least half an hour.
3. To make first Xacuti masala paste, heat some oil in a pan and sauté sliced onions, green chillies, ginger and garlic for about three minutes or until cooked.
4. Next, throw in some grated coconut and sauté for another 5 to 7 minutes. Once onions turn crispy and golden brown, keep aside.
5. To make the second Xacuti Masala paste, on a dry pan separately roast the cinnamon, cardamom, aniseed, black peppercorn, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, Kashmiri red chillies, star anise, maize flour, nutmeg, and turmeric.
6. To make the Xacuti, grinding the two spice mixes together.
7. For the final preparation, heat oil in a pan and add in the onions and green chillies. After about one minute, add the marinated chicken pieces.
8. After two minutes, add Xacuti Masala and some water. Cook for around 10 minutes.
10. Serve hot with some Goan poi, bread or rice.
Chef Silvanus says that since the Xacuti is a gravy dish, one is free to replace the chicken with mutton or any other meats. Vegetarians too can make this dish their own by using mushrooms as a substitute.
Note: This curry has the distinction of being one of those dishes that tastes better as next morning’s breakfast. When reheated, the Xacuti gravy thickens to a point that it further enhances the flavours. Plain or topped with an egg, you can scrape it out using hot poi or bread.
Banner image: Shutterstock
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