Xacuti on the Banks of the Mandovi

Goa_old

The very sight of Govāpurī
destroys any sin committed in former existence
just as sunrise dispels darkness
 Suta Samhita

THOUGH A FEW MISTAKE it for being a Portugese dish, shacuti is however of the same pedigree as Govāpurī (the early name for Goa). Typically made of chicken, this special local preparation won over the Portugese, who absorbed it into their own cosmopolitan cooking heritage, where its adapted version is known as chacuti de galinha (chicken chacuti). Xacuti’s longstanding prominence in native culinary knowledge, means that it could well have been served to and enjoyed by the founding Bijapuri Sultan, Yusuf Adil Shah, who enjoyed retreats at his riverside palace on the banks of the Mandovi in Ella, Old Goa. From the Columbian Exchange, the Portugese would bring in a new range of ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes, and chillies; added to this would be their own homegrown traditions of bread and vinegar making. The recipe below keeps such later influences to a minimum, though some, like chillies, are unavoidable. Gather all these ingredients and ready yourself for a journey through the aromas of history.

Main Ingredients

  • 1 chicken (preferably free range, skinned & cut into pieces)
  • Coconut oil                      4 tbsp
  • Curry leaves                   10-15
  • Salt
  • Tamarind pulp    soak separately in a bowl for at least 10 minutes

Marinade

  • Coriander leaves    handful (chopped)
  • Chilli powder        1 tsp
  • Salt                     1 tsp

Masala

  • Dried red chillies     10-12   (Goan bedige or Kashmiri deghi mirch)
  • Coriander seeds      4 tbsp
  • Fenugreek seeds     1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds          1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds          1 tsp
  • Cloves                  1 tsp
  • Peppercorns          1 tsp
  • Cinnamon             2 pieces
  • Cardamom            4-5
  • Star anise             1
  • Nutmeg                a pinch
  • Mace                   a small part
  • Poppy seeds         2 tbsp
  • Grated coconut      1 cup
  • Turmeric             1/2 tsp
  • Onion                2 small (sliced)
  • Ginger               2 knobs (chopped)
  • Garlic                8-9 cloves

Preparation

  1. Apply marinade on the chicken pieces and leave for an hour.
  2. Briefly roast the grated coconut and turmeric in a pan, remove and set aside.
  3. In the cleared pan, roast chillies, cloves, cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, mace, aniseed and pepper. After 3 minutes, add poppy seeds and continue roasting for another 2 minutes before removing to cool.
  4. Once again, in the cleared pan, fry the onions, garlic and ginger till brown, then set aside.
  5. Grind all the above roasted spices, the coconut and the fried onions, ginger and garlic, with water
  6. Heat some oil in a pan, add in the marinated pieces of chicken and fry on all sides till all pieces are evenly browned, then add the ground masala of point 5 and fry for another 5 minutes
  7. Add water, salt, and let it come to a boil before allowing it to simmer on a low flame for at least 10 minutes before adding tamarind pulp and cooking for another 10 minutes.
  8. Drop in curry leaves towards the end of cooking.
  9. Serve hot with rice or steamed rice cakes.
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