Malabar Mushroom Stew
Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
As I finalized this recipe, the outside temperature was the coldest Houston has been in over 30 years, with no power, spotty internet and a trickle of water in my home. All I was craving was a spicy stew to keep me warm.
I taught myself the fiery cuisine of Goa with frequent trips back to India. These days it is difficult to imagine Indian food without chili, but chiles actually did not arrive in India until just a few hundred years ago.
Vasco da Gama first landed in Goa off the Malabar coast in May 1458 and, within a few years, the Portuguese declared themselves landed aristocracy, wrestled control of the spice trade from the Arabs and began their ruthless domination of the East Indies spice trade that would last for most of the 16th century. It also was by means of the Portuguese that chili found its way not just to India but to the rest of the world. It is not known exactly when it arrived, but 30 years after da Gama first set foot on Indian soil, there were at least three different types of chili plants growing around Goa.
A new cuisine emerged, marrying the coastal flavors of Goa with the meat-loving Portuguese. Goa was the home of coconuts, cashews, cardamom, nutmeg and various varieties of rice. Portugal, because of the ecology of its Iberian peninsula, was suited to the cultivation of wheat, pigs, sheep, potatoes and grapes. This stew is a cross between a vindaloo and a xacuti (pronounced “shakuti”), both of which are fiery meat stews traditionally made with pork.
Though I absolutely love this meat-free version, feel free to add chunks of bacon or pork to the stew. Make sure to cook the onions to a dark caramel brown. I have made this stew using various kinds of chili, from arbol to guijilla, which adds a delicious smoky touch. Serve it with a bowl of simple white basmati rice cooked with minced cloves and coconut.