What to eat in Goa when you’re allergic to prawns…

About four years ago, I was at home, the wino was out and I decided to indulge myself with an old favourite dinner – salad with garlic and chilli prawns. About 30 mins after eating, my face started to feel a little funny so I headed to a mirror and was surprised to see that my face had swollen up to the size of a very large beachball. Given my face is quite round at the best of times, the fact that I’d noticed meant that it was quite an impressive swelling.

I called NHS Direct in a bit of a panic, they suggested I get my ass to hospital, so I did. An anti-histamine shot later, I was fine. A few weeks later, I went to a lovely Thai restaurant and ate a prawn cracker. Et voila, beachball face. Who knew prawn crackers had actual prawn in them?

Back to the doctor, referred to allergy clinic, long story short, I had managed to develop an allergy to prawns. One of the most heartbreaking things that’s ever happened to me – I truly love seafood. Whilst I’ve not been officially diagnosed with a full shellfish allergy, I haven’t eaten any shellfish since the diagnosis, apart from squid which I hadn’t really thought about being a shellfish, but it is (just the shell is on the inside).

So whilst I was super excited about going to Goa, I knew that I’d suffer insane amounts of jealousy watching the husband chow down on freshly caught prawns the size of rolling pins whilst I enjoyed yet another Russian salad. Yes, I could eat fish but prawns. I LOVE PRAWNS.

The wino's prawns.

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about – Goan food with its Portuguese and Indian heritage is wide ranging and diverse and there are a lot of delicious meat and veg based curries I could enjoy for those times when the ‘fresh’ fish plate they waft under your nose to choose your fish contains only fish with their eyes removed so you can’t see how not-fresh they are.

Whilst there were some terrible meals we ate, there were a few that were completely stand out and I’m still dreaming about them now.

Casa Susegad, where we spent our second week, has an amazing chef called Joanita who creates dishes based on your personal whim for dinner each evening. One evening, we asked for something traditionally Goan and were presented with Chicken Cafreal curry, a rich, unctuous dish of coriander, chilli and garlic all perfectly balanced and not hot, just beautifully spiced. As I recovered from illness this weekend, I decided to try and recreate this dish at home, with a little help from Google and my own little twist (based on missing ingredients).

Below is my attempt. Clearly not as a good – if you want it at it’s best, go to Casa Susegad!

Chicken Cafreal ingredients

Goan Chicken Cafreal – serves four

  • 8-10 bone-in skinned chicken legs and thighs (depending on how greedy your dinner companions are)
  • Marinade ingredients
  • A large bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro for my Yank buddies)
  • 8 green chillies – I used finger chillies but you can probably soften the heat by using larger chillies
  • 1 bulb of garlic, peeled
  • 2.5cm of peeled ginger
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (in Goa they use a seed called khus khus but I couldn’t find this and was told that sesame seeds are the closest match)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Other ingredients
  • Oil
  • Butter


  • Take all the marinade ingredients and put into a blender
  • Blend till you get a rich green sauce –  I had to add oil at this stage as my blender is rubbish but a tablespoon brought it all together
  • Pour this over the chicken pieces, cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours – or ideally, overnight
  • Heat the butter in a large pan (that has a lid) with a little oil to stop it burning over a medium heat
  • Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 minutes till lightly browned
  • Add the rest of the marinade to the pan and add a little water (150ml) to stop the sauce sticking
  • Cover and cook for 30-40 mins until the chicken is cooked through
  • Serve with vegetables of your choice and rice

Personally, next time I make this I’ll probably increase the chilli as we like things a bit spicier but this was a good, mild curry. Also, you’ll think you’re adding far too much coriander but keep going – you want that coriandery warmth to be the lead flavour, not anything else.


Chicken Cafreal


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