Journey of the Chicken Cafreal – Across Seas

Tender pieces of chicken preferably legs embalmed in a marinade of freshly roasted spices, fresh coriander leaves paste, a touch of vinegar with some tamarind and a dash of rum, each bite into the chicken sends a message of an intense complexity of flavours which goes beyond our known indigenous flavors. The ginger,cumin, garlic, rum and tamarind flavoured …the  charcoal or pan roasted or grilled wonder is Chicken Cafreal .


Chicken Cafreal is a symbol of a recipe travelling and imbibing flavors. It made India its home crossing continents and imbibing flavours. Mozambique is the original homeland of Chicken Cafreal known as GalinhaPiri Piri there.In her food memoir, The Flavours of Nationalism: Recipes for Love, Hate and Friendship,Nandita Haksar highlights the Portuguese-influence on the Goan dish and its historical connection to Africa.The Portuguese had colonized Mozambique from 1505 for nearly four centuries.

The story behind

The story behind “Chicken Cafreal” is indeed interesting. It is said that African slaves were once recruited in Portuguese army during their colonial rule in Goa.In one such army camp the slaves cooked some chicken using local spices and coriander leaves. The Portuguese officer liked the chicken and named it ‘Chicken Cafreal’. It was called Cafreal probably because the blacks were called ‘Kafirs’.

Chicken Cafreal’ has become the most popular dish of Goa over years with every household, every shack having its own recipe.A Chicken Cafreal is often known by its color- a vibrant green and the taste not so fiery as it once was with the use of Piri Piri chillies. Goans differ over many things about the authentic recipe-the type of vinegar used, the use of tamarind, addition of rum, did the original recipe use poppy seeds? Every rendition of Cafreal is nevertheless pure melody. Harmonious blending in of tunes with an array of cooking techniques…dry or a floating in the green gravy, served with potato wedges or a Goan yellow pulao.

The Peri Peri chillies also known as African Bird Chilli were used in the traditional Galinha .This chilli travelled to Goa with the Portuguese.The original dish Frangoa Cafreal is still cooked in Mozambique.In Goa Peri Peri chilli is known as Taroti Mirsangi which is more pungent than the common chillies found in India. Interestingly this chicken is cooked in Macao still .Fusion at its best- showcasing elements of African spices along with Portuguese traditions in use of vinegar and rum and cooked in Indian style- pan sauted, Chicken Cafreal has truly travelled the world. Feni or the local Goan liquor too is sometimes added.

A sculpture on the lines of Chicken Cafreal

A sculpture by Goa-based artist Subodh Kerkar, inspired by the popular Chicken Cafreal which made India its home during the erstwhile Portuguese rule in the state, was selected for an exhibition in Australia.The work was titled Chicken Cafreal and was a part of a series on Portuguese influences on Goan culture and cuisine.

Chicken Cafreal – The know how

1 bunch or 2 cups of coriander leaves including some stems.
1 to 1 1/2 inch ginger
10 to 12  garlic pods 
2-inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp peppercorn
6 to 8 green chillies
1 to 2 caps vinegar
1 to 2 pods tamarind
one inch jaggery 
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt, as per taste
Rum or feni, as required (optional), Chicken – 1kg


Marinate the chicken in salt and turmeric for ten minutes.

Make a paste of corriander leaves, ginger,garlic,cinnamon,cloves,peppercorn,cumin seeds,green chilies and vinegar.

Marinate the chicken with this paste for four hours.

In pan over oil roast the chicken till brown.Add salt .

Once browned add the marinade, tamarind paste, jaggery and a little water.Cover tight.Add rum or feni .(optional). One may add a dash of lime juice.

Meanwhile make roundels of potato and onion.Sprinkle salt and sugar.Over pan brushed with little oil brown the potatoes and onion.

Plate the chicken with the sauce, serve with the browned potato and onion roundels.

The chicken cafreal if cooked over grill and made dry can be served as a starter, if pan sauted with a sauce can be served with bread or pao.A simple yellow pulao can be the best pal . Alternate bites into the spicy yet balanced chicken with the caramelized potatoes and onions….a glass of Feni or Rum…some rains or a windy winter.