Chicken Xacuti, Goan Curry
Chicken Xacuti is a spicy flavorful curry from Goa. Xacuti is one of the speciality dishes from the state, served with rice or bread.
Indian State of Goa
As part of Indian cooking odyssey, today we travel to Goa. Goa is the smallest state and is on the west coast bordering Maharashtra on the north, Karnataka in the south & the east, and the Arabian Sea on the west. It was a Portuguese colony for 450 years before it was annexed by India in 1961 and the cuisine has a huge Portuguese influence.
Goan cuisine is influenced by both the Hindus and the Portuguese. Portuguese introduced Potatoes, tomatoes, cashews and pineapples to Indians and one of the most important spices, chili.
Some of the common ingredients in Goan cuisine are rice, coconut, coconut oil, seafood, kokum and array of spices. Kokum is a dry fruit and used extensively as a souring agent. This gives curries the dark color and is a substitute for tamarind in Konkan region of Goa.
Since it is a coastal state, seafood is very popular. Fish is a staple in the region, hence one of the staple food is rice with xit kodi (fish curry). Most common fish is Kingfish followed by pomfret, shark, tuna and mackerel. The other popular seafood is prawn, crab, lobster, squid and mussels.
The Hindu Goan cuisine is mainly vegetarian but also includes seafood. Hindu cuisine is not spicy, uses kokum and tamarind as souring ingredients and jaggery for sweetening. Cuisine includes lots of vegetables, lentils, pumpkins, gourds, bamboo shoots and, onion garlic is sparingly used. Coconut oil is the medium of cooking.
Goa has a decent Christian community and their cuisine has seafood, pork, beef and baked goods. Their curries use coconut, coconut oil, spices and vinegar. Speciality food from this community is Vindaloo, Xacuti and Sorpotel. Sorpotel is a pork and mutton/beef curry cooked in vinegar and spices. It is served with bread or sanna, a variation of idly.
Food common in both communities is Sanna (variation of idly), Khatkhate, bebinca (rich layered sweet), feni. Khatkhate, a Goan vegetable stew is a common preparation during festivals in both Hindu and Christian households. Feni is an alcoholic beverage prepared fermenting cashews or sap of toddy palms.
Experience in Goa
I visited Goa twice, once when I was very young, in 4th or 5th grade and do not remember much about the food. The second visit was last February, for my niece’s pre-wedding celebrations. Then, we visited a seafood restaurant, Martin’s Corner and I tell you, it is a must visit place if one is a foodie and loves seafood.
Frequent customers to the restaurants are Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, to name a few. The seafood here was the best seafood I ever tasted and no wonder all the celebrity keep revisiting this place. The collage of seafood in the above picture is from Martin’s Corner.
Today’s recipe is Chicken Xacuti pronounced shakuti. Xacuti is a curry prepared with lot of spices, poppy seeds and coconut. Since seafood is a staple in this state, the plan was to make a seafood dish but this chicken xacuti looked exotic and we loved it.
The first time I made the curry, I was not satisfied with the taste. However, I felt I could tweak the recipe to suit our palate. And I was right. The second time I made, we loved it. We enjoyed despite it being fiery hot. We blew our noses, wiped the sweat beads on our foreheads and licked our fingers clean!
How to make Chicken Xacuti
Adapted from: Sanjeev Kapoor, Goan Food and Goan Kitchen
Total Time: 25 – 35 minutes
Preparation: 10 – 15 minutes (this excludes time required to cut the chicken)
Cooking Time: 15 – 20 minutes
Serves: 2 – 3
Spice Level: Very Spicy
- 600 grams or 1.3 lbs. cleaned Chicken (I used ½ cleaned whole chicken cut into pieces)
- 2 small Green Chilies
- ¼ cup chopped Cilantro ~ Coriander Leaves
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tbsp. Oil
- ¾ cup chopped Onion (¾ of a medium onion. Keep aside the remaining onion for the curry)
- 1/3 cup chopped Tomato
- ¼ cup shredded frozen Coconut (can use fresh coconut)
- 4 Garlic Cloves
Xacuti Powder (Curry was spicy. Check notes)
- 7 – 8 Dry Red Chilies
- ¾ tsp. Cumin Seeds ~ Jeera ~ Jilakara
- ½ – ¾ tsp. Fennel Seeds (I used ½ tsp.)
- 1 tbsp. Coriander Seeds
- 6 – 8 Black Peppercorns (I used 8)
- 1 tbsp. Poppy Seeds
- 2 – 4 Cloves (I used 4)
- 2 – 4 Cardamom I forgot check the camera
- 1 – 1 ½” Cinnamon Stick, broken into small pieces
- Pinch of Star Anise (I used ½ a petal from the star anise. Check notes)
- ¼ cup roughly chopped Dry Coconut
- 2 tbsp. Oil
- 1 small – medium sized Onion or ¾ cup chopped Onion (I used 1 small onion and the remaining ¼ onion from the masala paste)
- 1 – 1 ½ tsp. Ginger paste
- 1 ½ tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 ¾ – 2 tsp. Chili Powder (adjust to taste. Check notes)
- 2 ¼ tsp. Tamarind Paste (I used homemade paste. Check notes)
- 1/8 – ¼ Nutmeg Powder
- Marination: Remove the skin and cut the chicken into small pieces. I cut it into 2” pieces. The quantity mentioned in the ingredient list is after cleaning and removing the skin.
- Grind coriander leaves and green chilies with salt.
- Rub the paste to the chicken pieces. Marinate chicken for ½ – 1 hour or for few hours in the fridge. I am a marinating freak and marinated it for 4 hours, and left it on countertop for ½ – 1 hour to bring it to room temperature before cooking.
- Masala Paste: Heat a pan with 1 tbsp. of oil and sauté the onions listed under masala paste.
- Once the onions are light brown, add frozen or fresh coconut and fry for couple of minutes.
- Add tomatoes garlic and fry until tomatoes are soft and mushy. 5- 8 minute
- Cool the mixture and grind to fine paste. Use some water if required. I used about 1/8th cup of water. Keep the paste aside.
- Xacuti Powder: Dry roast all the ingredients listed under xacuti powder.
Cool and grind to fine powder. Keep the powder aside.
- Xacuti Curry: Heat oil in a sauce pan and sauté onions till brown. Add ginger and fry for a minute.
- Add marinated chicken and mix well. Reduce the flame to medium, cover and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until the chicken is lightly roasted.
- Add xacuti powder and mix well so that chicken is well coated with powder.
- Add masala paste, chili powder, salt and mix well. Fry for a minute or two.
- Add 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cup water and mix well. Check the consistency and add more water if required.
- Add tamarind paste and give it good stir.
- Increase the flame to medium high, cover and bring it to boil.
- Taste the curry and adjust salt & spices to taste. Add nutmeg powder and cook for 3 – 5 minutes are until the curry is done or until chicken is cooked. Chicken in the US cooks very fast and do not overcook the curry.
- Turn of the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or pav, Indian bread.
- The curry was very spicy and please adjust the spices to your spice tolerance level.
- In Xacuti Powder ingredient list, for some of the spices I gave a range of quantities and how much I used. For less spice, use the low end of the quantity range. For eg. I have 6-8 peppercorns listed for Xacuti powder. For a milder curry, use 6 peppercorns or less.
- I do not use star anise in my cooking and do not like the smell and flavor of it. I used it very sparingly to keep the recipe as original as possible. If you like this spice, then use 1/2 star anise or 3-4 petals. The first time I made xacuti, I used 1 petal and we did not like the flavor. But it is just us.
- I used homemade tamarind paste. Can use pulp from a small ball size tamarind. Soak tamarind in water and extract the pulp.