Doublehard Goans

I made ‘rechad’ spice paste today. It’s a recipe from Goa; Goa was a Portuguese colony, and the name is apparently from the Portuguese recheado, ‘to stuff’, because the Goans use it to stuff fish*. I used some of it tonight to make a particularly good Goan seafood curry called ambot tik which uses the paste with some tamarind to make a hot, fragrant, sour dish. I got both recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India. Her ambot tik recipe uses squid; I made it with prawns today.

I’ve made the paste a few times before, but I noticed something today. Her recipe calls for ‘about 45’ dried chillies, and even the first time I made it I thought that seemed a lot and toned it down to about 15. That still makes something with a kick to it, and my ambot tik tonight seemed quite hot enough to me. But actually the recipe calls for ‘1oz of dried chillies (about 45)’. She’s clearly using chillies which are bigger and heavier than mine – I’ve got the little tiddly ones, and 45 of them barely weigh enough to register on the scales. I weighed out an ounce, and I reckon my paste is about one-twentieth as fiery as her recipe suggests.

Even allowing for variable hotness in the chillies, all I can say is: OMG. Those Goans are like superheroes with lips and tongues and throats and indeed whole digestive tracts of steel.

*Similarly, ‘vindaloo’ is derived from ‘vin d’alho’ because it’s derived from a Portuguese dish made with wine and garlic.

5 replies on “Doublehard Goans”

Lord, now I’m starving. I need to get that book…. once when I was too poor for new books I actually huddled in a bookstore corner with a scrap of paper and secretly copied out a Madhur Jaffrey recipe in shorthand (for a Kashmiri red lamb stew, as I recall. I still make it for springtime holidays). Now I could probably afford to upgrade to the actual cookbook.

I think that particular book is out of print — it accompanied a BBC series years ago — but there are other Madhur Jaffrey books around. If you want that particular recipe I’ll type it out for you.

Harry, Harry, the bigger the pepper (chilli to you) the milder it is.

Little tiddly ones are hot as hades.

Still, I could never find the really hot ones in Britain without going to a specialty story. Middling-hot, yes.

Hi Harry,

Scavella’s right. Small = fiery. Generally speaking.

Oh, and yes, Goans have some of the spiciest food on God’s earth.

But 45 chilies is either a misprint, or they are meant to be cooked with the seeds taken out, so that it’s the flavor and not the heat that dominates.

I’ve eaten vindaloo several times in Goa, and I found it tolerable–only a little hotter than the vindaloo I get in New York restaurants. But it’s not health-threatening if you have high tolerance for this stuff.

OK, here’s a theory: it was meant to read ‘about 4-5 chillies’ but it got misread as ‘45’, and some dutiful recipe tester carefully weighed out 45 chillies to see how much they weighed without really thinking it through. You could actually make it without any chilli and it would be warming, since it’s about 50% fresh ginger and includes a tablespoonful of black peppercorns.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually ordered vindaloo: I associate it too much with blokey men who have something to prove. Mind you, I think most of the ‘Indian’ restaurants in this part of the world are run by people from Bengal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, so I don’t know how authentic their vindaloo is likely to be. Perhaps I’ll make it myself some time.

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