Popular in Goan homes, Xacuti does not really need any introduction. If you’ve been to Goa or visited this place a couple of times, you will know that the menu will definitely have Xacuti listed on it. Pronounced as ‘Sha-ku-ti’, but spelt as ‘Xacuti,’ the dish is a prepared across Goa by various communities. And that is the one binding factor which connects communities together.
Each community in Goa has its own unique way and style of preparing this curry. The preparation differs based on the community and region. In Goa alone, you will find different variations of Xacuti. Although one might debate about whose dish is the best, each community enjoys the variety made by the other communities, and therefore, the Xacuti debate is not really a debate at all!
The Christian community in Goa has a certain way of preparing the dish, with the result being a curry which is a little dark in appearance. The darker colour is obtained by roasting all the spices and ingredients for a long period of time. Also, the coconut and chillies play a major role in the colour.
In Pernem, or the Hindu regions, there is a different name for Xacuti. They call it ‘Shagoti’. It is spicy and pungent, and uses of a lot of peppercorns which are ground and roasted into a thick gravy, and fried with onions, followed by the addition of meat or veggies.
Traditionally, 18 types of spices were used to make the Xacuti paste. They were pounded and then sautéed with onions and tomatoes. Nowadays, due to the occasional lack of availability of some spices, there are changes in the flavour of the dish.
Meat such as chicken, mutton, beef, etc can be used in this dish. In the past, it is said that this particular curry was prepare with the meat of wild animals. Today, however, such activities are banned and considered illegal.
If you’re a seafood lover, you can definitely opt for clams, crab, or prawns in your Xacuti. There are several places in Goa that serve roadside Xacuti made from seafood. Clams (or tisero) Xacuti are often found during -- season. Several popular restaurants like Starlight (in Assolna); Venite Bar and Restaurant (in Panaji); Johncy Bar and Restauran (in Benaulim); Martins Corner (in Benaulim) continue to serve some yummy Crab Xacuti.
Not to disappoint the vegetarian, Xacuti can be best enjoyed with mushrooms. Mushroom Xacuti is something that you find easily all over Goa, especially at small local outlets. Not only do they turn out to be tasty, but the pieces of mushrooms within, give you a real long lasting taste. Peas, cauliflower and other veggies also can be added to Xacuti as well.
Xacuti is popularly made using chicken. Sometimes, in Goan homes, you will find it replaced with beef. Most pork and beef recipes were introduced by the Portuguese, and were later modified or improvised to suit the local palate, depending on the availability of the ingredients.
Spices have always been dear to the country. However, when the colonizers came in, they introduced several items such as beef and pork to the local dietary customs. Even the chillies used in our diet were brought to Goa by the Portuguese. They were largely responsible for bringing in European, African and American influences to our food. Therefore, Goa’s cuisine is a mix of all. Over the years, it has blended well with the local items and Goans have ended up making the particular dish of their own.
This fiery dish has a subtle taste. The spices added to it tend to confuse the palate because the blend is so perfect that you are often left wondering what flavours you are consuming!