We all know that Indian curries use spices, maybe more than any other cuisine. Still, Xacuti (pronounced sha-kuthi) has more varieties of spices in it than any other curry I have encountered. This dish originates from Goa, situated on the west coast of India. It has some Portuguese connections, I am told, but with the inclusion of so many spices, I don’t know how that could be. Maybe the Portuguese chakuti underwent drastic changes when transplanted to the fertile soils of Goa, or it is just the name that got applied to a dish already existing. Whatever… the xacuti is one of the most delicious curries from the Indian subcontinent.
The spices that make Xacuti so flavorful, are mostly native to Goa. The dish can be made with fish or other seafood, chicken, veal, lamb or even hardy vegetables. I have chosen chicken (boneless, skinless) for this version.
Goan cuisine itself is well known for its unique flavors. Influenced by 451 years of Portuguese rule but rooted firmly in its native Konkani traditions, it is an expression of the best of both worlds. The hot chili peppers from South America and vinegar, introduced by the Portuguese to Goa have combined so well with the native coconuts and kokum along with the plentitude of fish locally available to produce one of the richest branches of Indian food.
The spices are dry roasted and powdered, and then added to the roasted coconut to be ground together. While dry roasting ingredients, it is a good idea to add larger sized ingredients first. In this case, add the red chilies first, give it a minute and then add the piece of nutmeg and black pepper and so on, ending with poppy seeds.
Xacuti is usually served with cooked rice or any flat bread like rotis and naans. Also great with a chunk of crusty bread.
X is for Xacuti
For the spice powder
For the xacuti
- Heat a pan on medium heat. Dry roast the ingredients for the spice powder till they are fragrant, just about a minute or so. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the coconut and sauté till lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the spices have cooled, grind them into a fine powder in a spice mill, or using a mortar and pestle.
- Grind the roasted coconut to a paste in a blender, adding water as required. Sieve the ground mixture, using a cheese cloth placed over a strainer to extract all the coconut milk. You can add a little bit of water to the mix, if required, to extract the liquid fully.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil in a largish pan. Add onions and sauté till transparent and the edges start to brown.
- Add the extracted coconut milk and mix well.
- Add the spice powder and turmeric powder and mix well. Season with salt. Allow to cook till it comes to a full boil.
- Add the chicken pieces and mix. Reduce the heat to low and cover and cook, till the chicken is done. You can add more water to cook the chicken, if the sauce is drying up.
- When the chicken is done, add the tamarind pulp and cook on simmer for 2 minutes.
- Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
- Give it a squeeze of lemon and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and thin juliennes of ginger. Serve with cooked rice or flat breads of any kind.