Goan Chicken Cafreal – Dry Version

Serves 4

Ah Goa, such a melting pot of flavours from different regions that it’s no wonder that this small Indian state has such a vibrant and unique cuisine.  Chicken Cafreal is no exception.  It has its history in Mozambique cuisine and was introduced to Goa, a Portuguese colony, by the Portuguese.  Since then, it has developed an Indian twist, which distinguishes it from other dishes such as Piri Piri Chicken.  This dish is definitely a flavour child of the Silk Road.

With its signature blend of ground spices, fresh herbs and citrusy undertones, Chicken Cafreal makes a huge flavour splash on your taste buds.  Let’s get started.


Goan Chicken Cafreal – Recipe


For the marinade:

  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon, unfurled
  • 10 pepper corns
  • 10 cloves
  • Small fist sized piece of tamarind pulp, seeds removed*
  • 2” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
  • 5 – 10 green chilies, slit lengthwise and chopped into half inch pieces
  • 1 bunch coriander, roots trimmed and chopped
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste

*If you’re unfamiliar with the taste of tamarind pulp or have not used it before, I would suggest that you opt for half the amount suggested.  It adds a tangy note to this dish that becomes a part of its characteristic flavour, but you don’t want to go overboard and make it too sour.  If it’s not tangy enough you can always add a squeeze of lemon before serving.

To cook:

  • 8 – 10 chicken thighs, deboned and skinless
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil

To serve:

  • 1 white onion, sliced into rings
  • 2 green chilies, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges


  1. Heat a non-stick pan on high heat and dry roast the cumin seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant, 5 minutes.
  2. Grind in a coffee or spice grinder until smooth.
  3. Turn heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan.
  4. Once oil has heated through, tear and add tamarind and stir fry 1 minute.
  5. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilies and cook until green chilies are soft, 2 – 3 minutes.
  6. Add coriander, turmeric and combine.
  7. Empty pan into a blender or food processor, add spice mix and puree until smooth.
  8. Place chicken in a large glass bowl, empty paste on top, add lemon juice, salt and combine well.  Ensure that chicken is fully coated.
  9. Cover and marinate chicken in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.  This is VERY important.  Do not skip this step as this is essential to tenderizing the chicken and it helps imbue the dish with an aromatic and delicious flavour.
  10.  When ready to cook, heat oil on medium high in a large, non-stick heavy bottom pan and arrange the chicken in a single layer (do not crowd and do two batches if your pan is small) and pour over any excess marinade.
  11. Turn heat to medium low and cook covered for 7 – 10 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through.  Time will vary depending on how thick your chicken is.  Test doneness by slicing into one of the chicken thighs.
  12. Turn heat up to medium high and brown chicken on both sides, 1 minute each. It should be greenish brown in colour.  Remove from heat.

To serve, arrange chicken on a serving plate, top with sliced white onions, chopped green chili and lemon wedges.  This tangy, aromatic, spicy, tender chicken has such a unique and mouth-watering flavour.  Also, it goes great with brown rice, chapatti or as a main with a crisp salad and roasted potatoes or rice pilaf.  You won’t just be eating with your mouth, but with your nose too!


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