Do you know what I love the most about Indian food? The variety. Indian chicken curry, no matter the dish, has an incredible symphony of flavors. There's something for everyone.
Back at the beginning of June, my family and I went to a local Indian restaurant to celebrate the end of the school year. We all decided to order something different. My husband got chicken xacuti (sha-koo-tee). It was spectacular! The blend of spices was complex, so needless to say I made it my mission to replicate those mouthwatering flavors.
The fabulous flavors of Indian cuisine are based on masalas or spice mixtures. Depending on the region of India, the masalas are going to be different. For example, curry is a masala.
Spicy Indian chicken xacuti comes from Goa, a state in the southwestern coast of India. South Indian food is marked for its elaborate dishes. You will find that this spicy Indian chicken xacuti has quite a long list of ingredients, but they are all fairly easy to find either online, or at a well-stocked grocery store.
Now, on Goa cuisine...
The cuisine of Goa is heavily influenced by the Portuguese. They ruled Goa for about 450 years. Go figure! During this time, the Portuguese dominated the spice trade. This is one of the reasons why Goan dishes tend to feature lots of spices.
So, let's look at some of the spices in Spicy Indian chicken xacuti: cardamom pods, star anise, and cinnamon. I place these ingredients in a cheesecloth, tie it up, and throw it into the braising pan along with all the other ingredients. You can think of this as the Indian version of a French bouquet garni. I am not sure if my method is very traditional, but I hate fishing stuff out of stews. Don't you?
So how did my spicy Indian chicken xacuti measure up to the restaurant's version? Well, my husband who has a keen palate said that it was "pretty darn close." That's good enough for me! We ate it with basmati rice, and naan.
Here is how to make a chicken xacuti with step by step photos!
- Gather all your ingredients and have them, chopped, measured and ready. Remember as the French say "mise en place" putting in place and it works.
- Crush the cardamom pods and place them on a cheesecloth along with the cinnamon stick and star anise. Tie with butcher's twine.
- Have the chicken cut into 1" pieces, place in a glass dish then sprinkle with the cornstarch and spice mixture. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- On medium heat in a braising pan add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes turning frequently. ( I love my Le Creuset braising pan for this. It holds the heat really well.)
- Add the onion and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the water and allow it to come to a boil. This will deglaze the pan and lift all those lovely brown bits of flavor!
- Add the tamarind juice or nectar.
- Stir in the coconut milk.
- Add the tomato and jalapeño.
- Add the spice pod mixture. Reduce the heat to simmer then cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the spice pod before serving.
Frequently asked questions:
Q: Can I freeze this dish?
A: I would not freeze as it would spoil the texture of the sauce when thawed. Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator and use them in 1 or 2 days.
Do you like Indian food? What is your favorite dish? Have you ever made your own curry? How about garam masala? Let me know. I want to hear from you!
Spicy Indian Chicken Xacuti
A rich and complex chicken stew from Goa, in southwestern India. Made with coconut milk and a wide range of aromatic spices.
Make spice mixture:
In a small bowl place the spices and mix thoroughly.
First, crush the cardamom pods. Next, cut a rectangular piece of cheesecloth about 12"x 6". Place the star anise, cinnamon stick, and the crushed pods. Fold over a couple of times, and tie on the ends with kitchen twine.
Prepare Chicken Xacuti
Cut chicken breast into 1" pieces, and place in a glass dish. Sprinkle with cornstarch, then add in the spice mixture, and toss to evenly cover. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Next, on medium heat, heat oil in a braising pan and add chicken. Cook, for about 5 minutes, turning frequently. Next add the onion and the garlic, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Pour in the water, and allow it to come to a boil, then add the tamarind juice and the coconut milk.
Toss in the tomatoes and the jalapeno pepper. Add the pod mixture.
Reduce heat, cover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve with naan bread and basmati rice.