Don’t you wish you could take off from your hectic schedules and spend a leisurely day, basking in the sun, lying on a serene beach? Smell the ocean, saunter barefoot on a sandy shoreline or dip your toes in cold water? The smell of the salty sea and mouth-watering barbecued seafood is what I’m talking about. A little getaway to Goa.
With a cuisine which is an amalgamation of various cultures, the Goan food is influenced by its Hindu origin, 400 years of Portuguese colonialism and modern techniques. The Portuguese actually did a lot in terms of introducing us to new fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. They gave us potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, guavas, cashews, papayas, passion fruit, pumpkins, aubergines, cilantro (coriander) and red chilli.
From the routes they discovered, the Portuguese brought over various plants and roots, producing luscious fruits and vegetables never heard before.
In turn, they took from here plants such as mangoes, coconuts and spices to places as far as Brazil. And this became the famous spice trade.
Recipes from different countries were prepared in Goa — initially with the produce they carried into India; later by substituting it with local produce.
This exchange had a big impact on the eating habits of Goans, providing them with a rich cuisine that is a mix of the east and west.
Goan cooking generally involves liberal amounts of spices, giving the dishes a distinctive taste and aroma. The most commonly used spices include cumin, coriander, chillis, garlic, vinegar and turmeric. The spicy and pungent Goan food is never complete without fish. This marinade is just perfect to make at home and enjoy the Goan experience. I’ve used Red Snapper Fillets but feel free to use any fish you like, which is firm and less boney. You can serve it with plain steamed rice, but I think it goes wonderfully with lemon rice.
For the marinade
5 tbsp white vinegar
78 dried red chillis deseeded and soaked
45 whole black peppercorns
2 tsp jeera seeds
3 tbsp chopped garlic
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp whole dhanya seeds
½ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 fish fillets with skin on one side (Red snapper, Kingfish, Rawas... any firm fish with chunky boneless meat)
For the lemon rice
1 cup basmati rice
1 large red onion, chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chilli, chopped
2 twigs of curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
Handful of chopped coriander
For fish marinade, blend together all the spices in a grinder till it forms a smooth paste. Massage it on to the fish and leave for about an hour. For the lemon rice, you can use left-over rice or just steam some in salted water, and drain.
Heat the oil in a frying pan till smoking hot. Add mustard seeds and when they begin to splutter, add curry leaves and then onions. Fry for two minutes and add rice. Sprinkle salt and turmeric, and mix well. Splash some water for all of it to come together and fry for about five minutes on medium flame. Turn off the heat, add lemon juice and coriander, and mix well.
For the fish, simply pan-fry first with skin side down. When it’s done and crispy on one side, flip over, cook and then serve on a bed of hot lemon rice.
(The writer is the author of Aapplemint, a food, travel and photography blog)