Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recipes from Goa, India

Yay, Indian food! I love cooking curry so I've been looking forward to this meal for a few weeks.

Indian food has very different characteristics from one region to another, which is why I decided early on to divide India up and tackle it by region. Of course my other reason was that it would allow me to cook more Indian food, but you didn't hear that from me.

This week we're in Goa, which is actually India's smallest state by land mass. At just 1,429 square miles (smaller than the state of Rhode Island), it is a tiny little spec on the western coast that also happens to be India's wealthiest state. The lucky residents of Goa are, on average, about 2 1/2 times wealthier than everyone else in India.

Most of Goa's wealth comes from tourism and mining. Goa is the destination for about 12% of Indian tourists as well as foreign tourists—Eurpoeans like Goa because of its warm winter climate, and Indian tourists are drawn to Goa during the summer holidays. Inland Goa is rich in minerals such as silica, iron, manganese and limestone.

The Sal River in Goa, India. Photo Credit: Cajie
Because of its location along the Arabia Sea, it probably won't surprise you to hear that Goan curries are usually seafood-based. So I went with a very simple meal of fish curry with a chickpea curry on the side and some bread to mop it all up. Here's the menu:

Xitt Codi (Goan Fish Curry)
(This recipe comes from Goan Food Recipes, which is a site that kind of made me laugh because it features graphics that make you think it's the homepage for an American café.)
  • 1 mid-sized sized pomfret*
  • 6 dried Kashmiri chilies
  • 1/2 coconut, scraped
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 to 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • Pinch fenugreek seeds
  • Small ball of Tamarind
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 15 oz cans coconut milk
  • 1 mango
  • 1 green chili pepper
  • Salt
*You can't get pomfret at our Safeway. I don't know about other Safeways. Evidently an acceptable substitute for pomfret is Chilean sea bass, but of course you can't use Chilean sea bass either because it's extremely endangered. The recipe also mentions kingfish or halwa (also called black pomfret), two other fish that aren't readily available around here. Tilapia is a substitute for kingfish, so that's what I used. You could also use grouper, a substitute for black pomfret.

Chana Tondak (Goan Chickpea Masala)
(from Raksha's Kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups canned
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 red chilies, chopped
  • 5 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 to 5 peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 4 to 5 garlic flakes
  • 1 marble sized ball of tamarind
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
(from Masala Herb)
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour 
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup water (more or less)
  • Ghee
We'll do the chickpeas first, since they have to soak (if you're a sucker, that is; I used canned ones).

Soak the dried chickpeas for 4 to 6 hours. Then boil some salted water and add the chickpeas and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are just tender, then drain and set aside. (Because I was using canned chickpeas, I boiled the potatoes by themselves, then mixed them with the chickpeas).

Add the oil to a skillet and cook the onions with the chilies until the onions turn a nice, deep brown.

Add the garlic and let cook for one or two minutes. Now turn the heat down to low and add the grated coconut.

I think I messed this bit up: the recipe doesn't say what to do with the spices beyond just adding them to the pot, so I followed faithfully. I think though that they needed to be ground first, which is what I recommend doing.

So when the coconut turns brown, add the ground spices and continue to cook until fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir in the turmeric. Let cool for five minutes or so.

Now put the onion mixture into a food processor with the tamarind and pulse until you get a smooth paste. Add water as necessary.

Return to the pot and stir in the chickpeas and potatoes. Season with salt to taste.

Now for the chapati:

Stir the salt into the flour, then make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, then the water. Knead until you get a smooth dough, then dust with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.

Now divide the dough up into golfball sized pieces and shape them into balls. Dust with more flour and roll flat, then spread a little bit of ghee over the surface of the dough.

Now you're going to fold the dough into a little packet. Start by folding two sides in until they touch, like this:

The fold in the other two ends.

Turn over, dust with a little more flour and roll flat to about the thickness of a tortilla. You'll end up with a square piece of dough.

They should actually be a lot thinner than this when you're done rolling.

Now transfer the dough into a preheated pan and spread some more ghee on top. Flip and spread ghee on the other side. Let cook on both sides until you're starting to get some dark spots on the surface. Serve hot.

And finally the fish, which is pretty quick and easy:

Salt the fish pieces on both sides and set aside. Place the Kashmiri chilies into a food processor with the coconut, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, fenugreek, Tamarind, turmeric and cumin. Grind, adding a little water until you get a paste.

Heat the coconut milk and add the paste.

Cut the green chili in two and put that in the pot with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then add the fish and the mango. Boil until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

I personally enjoyed this meal very much. Martin did too, but he thought that the chickpeas needed a little more flavor. He was right of course, and I attribute that to the fact that the spices weren't ground before I put them in the pot.

I really thought the fish curry was delicious, though. You don't have to do it with coconut milk (water will give you a different sort of dish) but I love coconut milk in a curry so there really wasn't any other choice for me. I'm glad I did because the flavor was really stupendously tasty. The chapati, on the other hand—they were just OK. Martin liked them more than I did. I thought they were really meh, but probably because I just don't like whole wheat flour all that much. Don't criticize—I love multigrain and oatnut breads, so I do eat healthy breads,  just not whole wheat.

That's another Indian region to check off my list—only 10 to go.

Next week: Greece

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


  1. Looks delicious. I look forward to trying out the fish curry. I am living in rural Bhutan at the moment ( I think that is how I found your blog long ago when you posted a Bhutanese recipe?) and most of the key ingredients are not available. But I'll be home (
    Australia) in a few months and come back for a peek. Thank you!

  2. Multi-grain doesn't necessarily mean healthy you know, if all of the grains in it are refined it is just as bad for you as white bread.


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