Curry Guide… Goan Cuisine

 

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The food in Goa is quite distinctive from the rest of the India, despite it being one of the smallest states in the country and home to fewer than 1.5 million people. Its location along the western coast of the country, by the Arabian Sea, means seafood features prominently in its cuisine and because its population is largely Christian (Catholic), thanks to just over 450 years of Portuguese occupation, beef and pork are also common, unlike in the rest of India. Chillies are also important in Goan cuisine having been introduced to to the country by the Portuguese in 1498. Curries without chillies, who’d have thought? The Indians used peppers for heat before that.

The most famous Goan dish is Vindaloo, which is a favourite of all heat lovers. Vin means vinegar, thanks to the southern Europeans and the aloo bit is for the amount of garlic in it (the aloo bit is commonly confused as meaning potato because “aloo” means “potato” in Hindi and chunks of the good old spud is in the dish. The traditional dish, cooked with loads of vinegar and pork, is nothing like the curry house dish you’ll get in Britain, although it does share the heat levels.

Other well-known Goan dishes are Xacuti, a dish of chicken or prawns with chilli, white poppy seeds and coconut, and Cafrael, a Portuguese-Indian combination dish which uses a lot of coriander and lime juice and has its roots in Africa.

Photo: Zerohund Wikipedia.

The most popular hot curries

In a recent survey we asked: “How hot can you go with your curries?”

The Goan classic, Vindaloo was a narrow winner with our spice heads, just pipping that perennial favourite Madras, which was preferred by 29% of curry fans. The super hot Phall polled 19% among the serious heat lovers, while another 19% said they couldn’t eat anything that hot. Korma or Chicken Tikka Masala it is for them then.

Spice Card holders can enjoy a 20% discount on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. Get your Spice Card here…

3D card image

Curry tip 19

If a curry recipe includes vinegar (eg. Vindaloo) but you find its taste a bit too tart, then use good old tomato ketchup instead, which contains vinegar. Ketchup is also a good replacement if a recipe includes tomato puree and you don’t have any.

Food lessons from Goa

1. If you have fish curry go for fresh not frozen. Getting fresh fish in your curry at home is not easy, of course, especially in restaurants. For cost and convenience most fish we get while out will be frozen (there is a bizarre fad to import tilapia, a Bangladeshi freshwater fish!) so if you find a restaurant that uses fresh, locally caught produce then treasure it. The difference is huge. Or you can always visit the fishmonger and cook your own.

2. Kolhapuri is a dish worth searching out. This dish, originating from a city called Kolhapur in Mahatashtra, is all over Goa, but I’ve never seen it on a menu here for some reason. As hot as a Vindaloo, as tasty as a Tikka Masala and as fresh as a Balti, this is the best dish I have ever tasted. Needless to say, I’d recommend you try it if you find it. Or better still ask the chef from your local curry house (especially if he’s from Maharashtra) to whip one up.

3. Vegetables don’t need to be consigned to side dishes. Most of us order our curry, rice and nan and, then, almost like an afterthought, we add some vegetables. Goa, like most of India, has a lot of veg-only restaurants, and they make you realise that veg doesn’t have to be an afterthought. Veg (make sure it’s fresh) is great for absorbing the spices and because the dishes are not as filling as meat equivalents you can eat more curry. What’s not to like?

4. Vindaloo is a Goan dish. Vindaloo is normally associated with six pints of lager and a metaphorical arm wrestle among friends to eat the hottest curry. It is, in fact, a dish that was born from Goa, when local spices were added to a vinegar-based dish brought to the area from the Portuguese. The most likely explanation for the name is that it is a cross between Vin (vinegar) and aloo (Hindi word for potato). The traditional meat used is pork, this being one of the few areas in the country where this meat is used extensively. While our restaurants still use a bit of vinegar the original recipe soaked the meat heavily in it.

5. A spicy omelette makes a great snack. Bored with your usual cheese omelettes? Masala omelettes can be whipped up in a couple of minutes. One egg, a chopped chilli, some chopped onion and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook, fold over in tissue and eat on the move.

Curry is not just for dinner. Parathas, stuffed with paneer, cauliflower and potato, plus pickles and raita, make a fine alternative to a fry up. I’m sure your local greasy spoon will oblige if you ask them nicely…

Curry tip of the week 22

If a curry recipe includes vinegar (eg. Vindaloo) but you find its taste a bit too tart, then use good old tomato ketchup instead, which contains vinegar.

Aurora curryalis

Zin Zeera, Norwich
(Review by Scott of Norwich Curry Club

It’s all about the lights. You can see them as you drive past Zin Zeera in the evening and they look great. I’m sure that they’ve picked up a lot of business by people drawn in by the light show, but it’s only good food and service that will keep them coming back and at least on one count, they have a chance.

Zin Zeera opened last year on the old Bottoms Up site in Hellesdon. The opening night was by all accounts a bit of a disaster with cold food and big delays causing some diners to walk out. We went as a party of eight (including four children) on a Saturday night and apart from the lights, the first thing you notice is that it’s massive. The dining area is huge and although it is very impressively finished, all sparkly floors and chrome; cosy it is not. This will be their biggest challenge: filling the place. We arrived at 7 and by 8.30, prime time for curry eating, the restaurant was at best a third full.

Because of the size they have employed lots of staff; in fact they have a girl whose entire job was to hold the door open for people arriving and leaving. Bizarrely though, service was slow and inattentive. The waiter taking our order appeared totally distracted and kept looking back over his shoulder at the bar staff. No surprise that two dishes were missed from our order completely.

However, when the food did arrive, it was excellent. We had ordered a wide range of dishes from Korma (chicken £5.95, king prawn £9.95), through Bhuna (meat £6.45) and Dhansak (chicken £5.95) to Vindaloo (meat £6.45). My Dhansak was the best I’ve had – rich, full of flavour and not floating in a pool of oil like some I’ve had. The rest of the party also enjoyed their dishes.

Once the staff had finally noticed we had finished, egged on by my fellow diners, I even broke the cardinal rule and ordered a dessert! I didn’t believe they actually existed, I thought the whole dessert thing was just a game where you looked at a plastic menu full of frozen stuff before saying no and sticking a hot towel on your face.

The bill came to £150 for eight which included plenty of drinks so value was good and we were even given a discount card for 10 per cent off future bills and 20 per cent off takeaways.

So in all, it was a thumbs up for Zin Zeera. If they can improve their service and find some way to fill the place so it creates a better atmosphere, they will survive. They may even make enough of a profit to pay the light bill.

Zin Zeera, 2 Boundary Road, Norwich, NR6 5LA. Tel: 01603 408888. Open: daily noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11.30pm.

Zin Zeera snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Decor ① ② ③ ④

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere ① ②

Service and friendliness ① ②

Goes down fast

Always good to discover a new beer made for spicy food, so… presenting for those of you not from Canada… Cheetah. At 5% abv, there is a lager and a dark beer, the former with a nice tang and the latter a bit smoother. Both do what they aim to, which is to go down well with Indian food – they were tested with a Lamb Vindaloo. The beers are brewed in Toronto. Not sure what cheetahs have got to do with Indian food or Toronto, mind you.