Chicken Cafreal: All The Way From Africa To Goa
Image Credit: This Portuguese dish came to Goa from Africa

Chicken Cafreal, a dish that has been a fine example of Afro-Lusitanian slave-soldier sustenance meal that later became a culinary highlight of Goa’s good map. The dish was originally a Portuguese colony preparation in the African continent. Going back to see how the Portuguese influenced the food in India, it was around 16th century when they settled and established a colony here and started to rule from Cochin and then Goa. They mostly controlled or ruled the west coast of India and also the northwest in Bengal. It’s interesting to see how the Portuguese influenced the Indian culinary graph; firstly they introduce spices which till date are a part of everyday affair and and is an essential part and secondly by introducing Portuguese dishes that were slowly adapted in Indian cuisine from the Goan vindaloo to the custard to the Prawn balchao , Shukto and more. 

One such dish that became a part of Goan culinary map was the Chicken Cafreal. Cafreal happens to be that spice powder or paste which used to marinate the chicken, but also be used for fish, mushrooms, cottage cheese, vegetables and more. Back when the Portuguese landed  one sailor stood out with his caldron. It’s said that  he carried Vasco-De-Gama’s favourite dish, the Frango à Cafreal, an Afro-Lusitanian slave dish that the captain loved the most. This darker green hued dish was the first thing of Portuguese import that happen to arrive at the ports of Goa. And then that famous sailor made this dish and offered the Chicken Cafreal or Galinha (Frango), a greenish-blackish-hued dish known to Gama. 

Also this dish too forefront as years later Goan joined Portuguese colonies and along with it adapted the the Afro-Lusitanian food culture that was prevalent there. Famous Chef Thomas Zacharias who was in Goa last year took to Facebook to wrote “Cafreal is a classic Goan chicken recipe believed to have originated in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, most likely Mozambique. In fact, it might even have ties to the piri-piri chicken popular in that part of the world which is actually quite different in appearance, flavor and ingredients from the Goan cafreal. 

This dish sees a Portuguese Origin/ Facebook


Whole chicken legs are marinated in a paste made with cilantro leaves, garlic, onions, ginger and spices like cinnamon, pepper, mace and cloves, and shallow fried or grilled or even made into a thick curry like this one. It is balanced with sugar or jaggery and is characterised by sourness coming from lime juice or vinegar. 

Pictured here is one of my favorite versions of cafreal served out of a restaurant in Goa, the Chicken Cafreal at Kokni Kanteen. It's packed with the vibrant flavor of herbs and chillies, but still has the meatiness from slow cooking the chicken in the masala. Really good stuff!”

As till date Goa sees a much of Portuguese influence, they can also take credit for the prawns balchao and pork vindaloo too.