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The taste of Goa’s chorise is one of India’s great flavours

Wherever you find rice, you will usually also find a sausage and rice dish.

In the Far East, where rice is the staple, it is common to fry it with slices of slightly sweet Chinese sausage. In North Africa, the Merguez lamb sausage goes into rice dishes. In the US they have jambalaya. And In Italy, spicy fresh sausage adds flavour to risotto.


But the home of the rice-and-sausage combination is the Iberian Peninsula. The Arabs took rice to Spain, Portugal and other European countries including Italy, where it found fame in such dishes as risotto and paella.


   We can date the invention of the chorizo sausage, Spain’s greatest gastronomic gift to the world, because it uses pimentón, a powdered dried chilli that is often smoked. So we know that it must be after 1502, the date of Christopher Colombus’s last voyage to South America where he found chillis.


   At around the same time that Columbus was arriving in a country he mistakenly thought was India, Vasco Da Gama was dropping anchor in the real India. The Portuguese came as traders, tried setting up an empire here and were finally restricted to Goa. Many of the food items they introduced still remain popular there: vinegar, bread, chillies, cashew nuts and the chorizo.


   The Portuguese chorizo has a different flavour from the Spanish one (some Portuguese versions use vinegar, for instance) but both countries have two basic types of chorizo, a salami-like dried chorizo that can last for months and a fresh sausage-like variety that has to be cooked before it can be eaten. The Portuguese popularised the sausage version in Goa.


   That sausage, still called chorise, continues to be eaten in Goa. It is a popular street snack (as chorise pao) and a kitchen staple. It is also a constituent of popular Goan rice dishes, either as part of pulao or a fried rice.


   Chorise rice has now started turning up on menus all over India. Its ubiquity coincides with the rise in popularity of the Goa chorise among top chefs. You will often find a dish that is flavoured with chorise on trendy menus.


"The chef Avinash Martins said that his Portuguese ancestors always made the pulao and referred me to the Portuguese Arroz Refogado, which he said the dish is derived from."

   The Spanish tend to use the salami version of their chorizo and get agitated when foreign chefs add chorizo to paella. In 2016, when Jamie Oliver published a paella recipe that included chorizo, there was an outcry in Spain which increased when the Spanish discovered that chorizo also turned up in paella recipes by Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay.


   The Spanish say that if you put chorizo in paella, it will dry up as it cooks, leaking fat into the rice and becoming chewy when the paella is ready. With the Goan version of the chorise, which is usually a sausage not a salami, the dryness objection does not hold. Most versions of the Goan chorise tend to fall apart when you cook with them and are so fattily moist that the oil they give out will quickly flavour the rice.


   Is the Goan chorise pulao a traditional dish? The usual recipe is a sort of simplification of the paella method. You cook the chorise with vegetables, onions, spices etc. (the soffritto), then add rice and water or stock, and cook till the liquid has evaporated and the rice is done. But there is no agreement over when the dish was invented.


   I asked the food writer Marryam Reshii, who is a Goan, how old the dish was. She said she knew it from her childhood in the 1960s and 1970s but did not think it was particularly ancient.


   The chef Avinash Martins said that his Portuguese ancestors always made the pulao and referred me to the Portuguese Arroz Refogado, which he said the dish is derived from.


   I asked Rahul Gomes Pereira, the chef who specialises in Portuguese-Goan cooking. He agreed that there may be a link to Refogado, which he described as rice cooked in chicken stock with tomatoes, onions, cloves, pepper and cinnamon. The sausage element, he said, was a recent short-cut.


   I am inclined to agree with Rahul but Goans all tend to reference the pulao/paella method for making chorise rice. However, a fried-rice method is quicker and often makes for a tastier dish.


   At Mumbai’s O Pedro restaurant the late Floyd Cardoz put his mother’s delicious pulao on the menu. But his protege Hussain Shahzad, who now runs the kitchen has changed the recipe. Hussain makes a sauce with chorise and dried shrimp and fries day-old cooked rice with the sauce while adding whatever he has in the kitchen that day: vegetables, bits of pork belly etc.


   The result is a perfect chorise rice packed with flavours, moist without being wet, in which every mouthful tastes of chorise but the chorise never overwhelms the other flavours.


   So here’s my conclusion: don’t be bound by traditional recipes which may or not be truly ancient. The taste of Goa’s chorise is one of India’s great flavours. Experiment with it and create your own recipes. It’s hard to go wrong with chorise.




  • kiilio 15 Feb 2023

    Well, I will try this when my husband is done playing basketball stars, will definitely love it. Look at that delicious food.

Posted On: 10 Feb 2023 06:21 PM
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