Sunday, 17 June 2012

Goan Influence Coconut Chicken

Goan Influence Coconut Chicken

Real Goans use feni, a powerful whiskey like substance made out of either fermented cashews or coconut.  It packs a frightful wallop, although it’s said to kill dead unwelcome intestinal bacteria.  I believe that.

Although our neighbors have bottles of it in their pantry, and I’ve never dared enquire after it at any liquor store, I will swear to you that it’s completely unavailable here in the land of snow.  Which is why I’m substituting coconut vinegar, honest.  I swear.  On the other hand, I do love coconut, another Goan staple, and have done my best here to create a Goan influence in this chicken dish.  This coconut adds a crunchiness that coconut milk doesn't offer. 

Our Goan influence
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon coriander seed
5 cloves
1 black cardamom, husked
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 flake mace
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ heaping teaspoon black salt
Roast the above ingredients (except for the cinnamon, turmeric and salt) in a large non-stick pan at medium high heat.  As soon as they give off just a wisp of smoke and fragrance, put them in a spice grinder along with the turmeric and salt.  Grind to a medium texture.  

1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon dark mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 inches ginger, chopped
1 red onion, diced
8 Thai chilies, finely slivered or finely chopped (you can use less if you are fearful)
8 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
4 slices dried green mango
16 or so pieces of skinned and boned chicken thighs
½ fresh coconut
4 tablespoons coconut vinegar
1 large bunch spinach, or 1 box of frozen spinach
1 large handful cilantro, washed and chopped

In the same pan, add the oil to the cinnamon, and heat to medium high.  Add a few mustard seeds.  When they sizzle add all the mustard seeds, then the cumin.  Immediately add the ginger and onions, stir and turn down the heat to medium.  Cook till translucent with golden bits.  Turn on your hood vent, and add the garlic and chillies, and cook for another few minutes.  Add the masala, stir, and cook for a few more minutes, while you are getting the chicken out of the package.  Our deboned chicken thighs come folded over, so I unfold them and add them to the pan.  Once they are all in there, I gently stir to get the chicken on the bottom of the pan and the masala and onion mix distributed nicely.  I leave the chicken alone, so it can seal and golden up a bit.  I give a few gentle stirs about every five minutes or so.  

A whole coconut is a bit of a mystery to some folks here.  I nicely ask Husband Person to break it with a hammer in a plastic bowl.  He smashes and bashes, and brings it to me in several pieces with the coconut water splashing around.  I discard the shell, and put half the coconut pieces and half the water into the blender, and buzzed.  The rest I froze.

Although I bought a coconut scraper in Goa, using it is a time consuming task.  It does give more attractive pieces of coconut, I will say.  But the blender does the job in less than a minute… Pour that into the chicken mixture, and then add half the coconut vinegar to the blender, swish it around, and pour that into the chicken.  Pour the next half in and swish, then add to the chicken.  The idea is to get as much of the coconut bits into the dish as possible.  Waste is a terrible thing.
 Add the dried green mango slices, cover the pot, and let simmer for about an hour.  Green mango is not to be confused with regular dried mango.  It's more like a tangy vegetable.  If you are using frozen spinach, add it with the green mango, but if you have fresh spinach, add it in the last five minutes of cooking.
I had overestimated how quickly I could harvest my garden cilantro, so I had to forego adding cilantro to my chicken at serving time.  But do use lots, if you have it!

Serve with basmati rice and a cooling salad, sip your feni if you can, and enjoy!


  1. You must have a very well-stocked pantry.

  2. I can see I need to get to Calgary again to get ingredients. I suppose I could order online, but that wouldn't be as much fun as a visit! I am dying to make the Goan-influence chicken but have never successfullly separated coconut meat from the brown papery inner shell. Perhaps it could be done with the papery part still on? and/or could I just use frozen coconut, my standby for Indian and Thai food?

  3. That party you wanted to attend last year is on July 11th this year, the Wednesday. You should zoom up for that! I have a source for coconut vinegar that's walking distance from my house!

    The papery part of the coconut is just fine. It's the hard shell I worry about.