Chicken xacuti

Chicken xacuti

Xacuti de frango

Steven Joyce

This curry may have dozens of ingredients, but the complex, rich flavours you get at the end are well worth it. You can make it with ready-made coconut milk, but I love the flavour and texture you get from making your own with toasted coconut. You can also swap the chicken for veal or lamb, or even goat, but they will need long, slow cooking (the exact time will depend on the cut you choose) until the meat is soft and tender.

This is another Goan-Portuguese dish, which I was introduced to by the chefs at Cantinho da Paz. For more information on them, and why Goan food is so important to Portugal, see below.


Quantity Ingredient

Masala powder

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cloves
16 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
generous pinch salt

Chilli paste

Quantity Ingredient
1 green chilli
10 dried curry leaves
4 garlic cloves
1 large thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled
1 lime, juiced
4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves


Quantity Ingredient
200g unsweetened desiccated coconut
200-300ml water
flavourless oil, for frying
1 onion, finely sliced
4 free-range chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
4 free-range chicken drumsticks, skin on, bone in
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon plain flour, if needed
salt, to taste
freshly squeezed lime juice, to serve
handful chopped coriander leaves, to serve
rice or flatbreads, to serve


  1. Place all the masala powder ingredients, except the fenugreek seeds and salt, in a hot dry frying pan, and toast for 1–2 minutes until fragrant. Remove the cinnamon stick and reserve for later. Add the fenugreek seeds and salt to the mix and grind in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Set aside.
  2. For the chilli paste, blitz everything together until it forms a smooth paste. Set aside.
  3. To assemble the curry, place a large wide frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, remove from the heat and add the coconut. Cook – still off the heat – stirring all the time. The coconut will toast quickly, turning light brown. When the coconut is mostly brown, tip it into the bowl of a food processor or blender and add the water. Blend for about 5 minutes, to make a loose paste.
  4. Next, pour the coconut paste into a sieve set over a large bowl. Squeeze out as much coconut milk as you can, using your hands, and once the solids are as dry as possible, discard them. Set aside the toasted coconut milk.
  5. Heat a little flavourless oil in a large heavy-based saucepan with a lid, add the sliced onions and fry over a medium heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring often, until thoroughly browned.
  6. Next, add the chicken and turmeric and brown the meat (do this in batches if necessary, as crowding the pan will prevent the meat from browning). Return all the meat to the pan (if you browned it in batches) then add all the dry masala powder and the reserved cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add all the chilli paste, and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes. Finally, add the toasted coconut milk. If the meat is not mostly covered with liquid, add a little water to the pan.
  7. Bring the curry to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 30–40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. (To test this, remove one of the thighs and cut down to the bone – there should be no trace of pink, the juices should run clear and the meat should come easily away from the bone.)
  8. If necessary, remove the lid during cooking for 10 minutes or so, to reduce the sauce. If it is still too loose, place the plain flour in a small bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of the hot curry liquid. Beat until smooth, then gradually add to the curry pan. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes or so, to allow the flour to thicken the sauce.
  9. Finally, taste and season with salt.
  10. To serve, finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and coriander. Eat with rice or flatbreads.


  • The Portuguese colonised Goa in the 16th century, making it central to the spice trading routes that ran from their colonies in east Asia to Europe and on to the Americas. They introduced the hot chilli pepper to India from its native South America, along with vinegar, which Goan cooks learnt to make from palm wine and coconut toddy. Goa remained a colony until the 1960s, and, as with other colonies, many Portuguese settled in Goa and many Goans settled in Portugal. (Because of the sizeable Catholic community in Goa, it is one of the few places in India where pork is eaten; they have their own style of spicy chouriço (chorizo) sausage.) The family who own Cantinho da Paz and Restaurante Nova Goa have been in Lisbon for generations, but the food in their wonderful restaurants remains true to their roots.
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