For more than 15 years, before I immigrated to The Netherlands, it was nearly a ritual to have a holiday in Goa each year. Goa is the ultimate place to chill out. Gentle sea breezes, a warm sea to swim in (the blessing of which I realise when I am on the coast of the cold sea at a Dutch seaside!), fresh fish made into a fry or curries, the smell of which permeates the surrounding atmosphere. In a day or two you slip into the relaxed Goanese attitude- Susegad – (meaning all is well), which is infectious! All these elements contribute to complete “de-stressing” during the holiday.

No visit to Goa (and for that matter, any country or place I visit), is complete without browsing through the local markets. I always experience a place through its people, ingredients, and produce. In the markets of Goa, especially Mapusa market, I buy and stock up on some special local ingredients like moist purple, kokum fruit used as a souring agent. The three types of local chillies, Harmal, Khyolchyo / Canacona, and Tarvoti, which I use for some pork and fish curries. Tirphal, which is like a Szechuan pepper, but deliciously aromatic, is always on my list. The spicy Goan pork sausage Choriz, Toddy vinegar, and local rice. These for me are the essentials of the Goan experience!

Many of you have eaten or know of Pork Vindaloo, but my favourite is the flavourful, green masala based, and aromatic Chicken Cafreal.

Chicken Cafreal recipe has been said to have its roots in Mozambique, and was brought to Goa by the Portuguese colonists. It is a version of Hunter’s chicken, part barbecue, part curry, and most probably evolved over decades, using local Goan ingredients, like the Toddy vinegar. The smokiness of the grilled chicken in the Cafreal, contributes to a lovely aroma that is characteristic of this recipe. If it is summer, then I often use a wood-fired BBQ to grill the chicken, if not I use a grill pan or the electric Weber. Ideally, to be eaten with the Goan pita-like whole wheat bread- Poaee, the recipe of which is in this website, but Turkish bread or Naan is just as good to go with Chicken Cafreal.

For 4 persons. 1 cup=240ml/ 1 tbsp = 15ml/ 1 tsp=5ml


500g/ 4 chicken thighs, de-skin, and make 3-4 tiny slits with a sharp knife to help marinade & cook evenly
1st marinade:
½ an onion, grated
3 large cloves of garlic, grated
1 cm fresh ginger, grated
¾ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Toddy vinegar or cider vinegar
2nd marinade green CAFREAL MASALA
¾ tsp each: coriander and cumin seeds
5 plump cloves, with bud intact
2 cm piece of cinnamon, broken down in a mortar & pestle
4 green cardamoms
Roast the above in a small hot pan, till aromatic, remove from the pan, cool and pound or blend into a powder.
Add to the blender:
10 fresh/ bottled green peppercorns- if not available use the dried ones
75g/1 cup fresh coriander- chopped including the stalks
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
60g /1 small onion chopped
20g/ 2 cm ginger, chopped
5 plump cloves of garlic-chopped
2 tbsp Toddy vinegar or cider vinegar
2 tbsp palm sugar or jaggery-grated
Blend all the ingredients, including the powdered spices, to a fine paste. If needed add some oil to facilitate blending.
1/3 cup sunflower oil ( you might need a tbsp or more eventually, depending on the size of pan you use)
150 ml chicken stock/ hot water
1 large onion, cut in half & sliced into 0.5cm thick half-moons.
1 green capsicum, cut in half, remove the seeds and white fibres, slice horizontally into 0.75 cm thick slices.
Lemon cut in half, Naan or rice to serve with the Cafreal.
Aromatic, smoky & fresh green, Goan Chicken Cafreal recipe


1.Rub the chicken thighs with 1st marinade. Cover and rest for 15 minutes.
2.Add the 2nd marinade to the chicken, and rub it in to coat well. Marinate for a minimum of 30 mins, preferably for 4-6 hours in the fridge.
3.Prepare a woodfired / or coal BBQ to grill the chicken/ or heat an electric grill or a grilling pan.
4.Remove the chicken thighs from their marinade, with a spoon, scrape off the masala and reserve the masala in a bowl.
5.Coat the chicken thighs with 2-3 tbsp oil & grill them for 2-3 mins on each side.
6.Heat a wide pan with 2-3 tbsp oil, and add to it the onion and green pepper. On a high heat sear till slightly charred. Remove from the pan to a plate.
7.Add some more oil to the hot pan, and add the marinade/ masala. Lower heat and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
8.Add the chicken stock/ water. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat, arrange the grilled chicken. Cover & cook for 10-12 mins.
9.Thereafter, flip the chicken thighs over, arrange the onion & capsicum slices around the edges of the pan.
10.Cover and cook till the chicken thighs are done. Pierce with the tip of a sharp knife, the juice oozing out of the chicken should be clear.
11.Taste and adjust salt, add some freshly ground green or black pepper for a fresh layer of flavour.
12.Serve warm with naan and a lemon wedge on the side.

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