Embraced in the kitchens of Goa during Portuguese colonisation, vinegar is a key ingredient in Goan cuisine, giving many of its dishes their signature sharp edge. Balchão consists of a fiery, pickle-like tomato and chilli sauce, and while we've used prawns here, fish or pork can also be cooked in this way. Coconut toddy vinegar, made from coconut flower sap, is traditionally used in Goa, but we've used coconut vinegar (made from fermented coconut water), which also lends tang and a hint of coconut.
- 125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 12 dried red chillies, soaked in boiling water, drained
- 8 cm-piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 5 cloves, crushed
- 250 ml (1 cup) coconut vinegar (see Note)
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 20 fresh curry leaves (see Note)
- 1 kg green prawns
- warm naan bread, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and stir for 1 minute or until they begin to pop. Add chillies, ginger and garlic and stir for 3 minutes or until ginger has softened. Add turmeric, cloves and vinegar, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
Heat 60 ml of the oil in a clean frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until softened and slightly coloured. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes, or until starting to break down. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add chilli and garlic mixture, cinnamon quill and half the curry leaves, and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Add prawns and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Heat remaining 25 ml oil in a clean frying pan over medium heat. Fry remaining curry leaves for 10 seconds or until crisp. Divide prawn balchão between serving bowls, scatter with fried curry leaves and serve with naan.
• Coconut vinegar and curry leaves are available from select greengrocers and Asian food shops.
Photography Brett Stevens
As seen in Feast magazine, November 2013, Issue 26. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.