My Goan stepmother is a talented and adventurous cook. The last time we were visiting with her and my dad in Goa, she pulled out some pink beans from her pantry and introduced them to us as “Portuguese beans.”
While Indian cuisine is rich in all sorts of beans and legumes, pink beans are not something I had ever encountered before in India (although I always have them in my pantry here in the United States). No wonder my stepmother was proud of her find. She used them that afternoon to cook up a delicious, coconut-based curry very much like this Feijoada I have for you today– a dish Goa adopted and adapted from its Portuguese colonizers.
Half a century after the Portuguese left Goa, their memory lingers on. You can hear it in the names of Goans and in their language, see it in the beautiful churches and buildings that dot the landscape, and taste it in Goan cuisine which includes dishes like Xacuti, Balchao, and Vindaloo.
The food of former colonies like Goa offers an interesting study in how occupiers cross-pollinated culinary traditions across the distant lands they held. Those food legacies were readily embraced by the natives and they persisted long after the occupiers left, as opposed to other colonial legacies that were unwelcome and are deliberately erased or lost over time. The names of cities, for instance, are easily changed back to what they used to be, and political forces even attempt to rewrite history books to put a spin on events. But connections forged through food linger and are embedded unshakably within cultures, impossible to erase. In fact, who would want to?
People here in the United States might recognize Feijoada as a meat-and-sausage stew that is often referred to as Brazil’s national dish–yes, the Portuguese took it there too. But the Goans added to their version the signature ingredients of their own cuisine, like coconut, tamarind, and warm, fragrant spices. The result was a delicious stew that’s easy to veganize without losing an iota of flavor.
My stepmom’s version is entirely vegan, although I added some vegan sausage to my translation for two reasons: the traditional Goan Feijoada, cooked usually by the state’s Christian population, does contain pork sausage. Second, I just wanted more protein in my curry. You could leave out the sausage if you wish and the stew would be no less delicious.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!
- 1 cup pink beans
- or pinto beans (red beans are fine too). Soak the beans overnight and cook them until tender but not mushy. Alternately, use two cups of canned beans, rinsed thoroughly.
- 2 vegan sausage links (optional). Chop lengthwise into ½-inch rounds
- 1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 red chilies (use less if you're sensitive to heat)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 cloves
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp tamarind pulp. Alternately, soak a 1-inch ball of tamarind in ¼ cup warm water for 30 minutes and extract the pulp by crushing the tamarind between your fingers. Discard the solids.
- 1 cup shredded or grated coconut (use 1 cup coconut milk if you don't have this)
- Salt to taste
- Chopped coriander leaves for garnish
- Heat a saucepan. Add the red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and cloves. Dry-roast the ingredients for five minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant and a couple of shades darker.
- Remove the ingredients to a blender. In the same pan, dry-roast the garlic until golden-brown spots appear. Add to the blender. Then roast the grated coconut over low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly golden. Add to the blender along with 1 cup water. If you are using coconut milk just skip the roasting step and add the coconut milk directly to the blender.
- Blend the masala until you get a smooth paste.
- Add oil to the same saucepan.
- Add the chopped onions and saute, stirring frequently, until they start to turn golden-brown.
- Add the sausages, if using, and saute until they start to get a crust.
- Add the tamarind paste and the ground masala paste. Stir well to mix and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.
- Add the beans along with a cup of water or cooking liquid. If your curry is already water, add less liquid. Add salt to taste.
- Let the curry come to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes so all the flavors mix together.
- Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with some rice or a crusty bread.