The masala is used to stuff different types of fish or even coat them before they are shallow-fried.
A balmy evening spent at a shack that served fish fried in recheado masala, along with a portion of fries, is among one of my many pleasant memories from Goa. The shack, called Calamari, is down a quiet alley in Candolim. I remember being told by the late owner Reginaldo D’Souza that his mother taught the boys in the kitchen how to make recheado, a very traditional masala used in Goan cooking.
The word ‘recheado’ means ‘stuffing’ in Portuguese; the masala is used to stuff different types of fish or even coat them before they are shallow-fried. Recheado masala uses Kashmiri chillies, garlic, ginger, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, mustard, tamarind, vinegar, salt, sugar and curry leaves (the use of vinegar is something that Goan and Portuguese food have in common).
I found recheado to be ubiquitous in Goa. Whether it was a beach shack or a Goan home, the masala made its way into the kitchen. Hilda, the cook at a friend’s home in South Goa, prepared fresh recheado masala in front of me and marinated some prawns in them. She then made a tasty curry with the marinated prawns and served it to me. The dish was fiery and I needed multiple glasses of water to extinguish the fire on my tongue. But the taste was so memorable that I remember it even eleven years later.
Whether it’s a curry like Hilda’s or shallow-fried fish that has been stuffed with and coated in the masala, recheado is versatile. It can even be used to marinate chicken and vegetables. The powerful, tangy flavour stays with you long after you have finished eating. It is a reminder of blue and white printed tiles, colourful houses, meandering roads, green fields, old Churches, shacks along the beach, the sun, sand and the sea.