This is an old Goan dish that many have already forgotten about and locals are worried it might soon become obsolete as newer, faster recipes encroach on the New India. When I heard about this dish, I was intrigued and read up on it some more. It is a really unusual taste combination – a sweet yet savory filling of shrimp is baked inside a sweet coconut cake. It is reminiscent of Chinese dim sum pork buns, where the filling is both sweet and savory and the bun is a sweet, yeast bread.
I am sure both were the influence of the Portuguese as bread was neither Chinese nor Indian, but much loved by the Portuguese. Indians made it theirs with the local shrimp and spices. I’m not sure if this dish will appeal to the masses, but I think it is delicious and relevant to the history of Goa and, as such, I’m sad to see it disappearing from use. The shrimp filling can be made the day before and brought back to room temperature before baking.
Adapted from "Anjum's New Indian" by Anjum Anand.
For the filling:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 in piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 6–8 mild dried red chiles
- 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
- 5 black peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Salt, to taste
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
- 11 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the batter:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs and 1 extra yolk
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup semolina (durum flour), soaked in ½ cup water for 15 minutes
For the filling:
Heat the oil in a medium sized nonstick saucepan. Add the onions and fry until golden. Meanwhile, using a blender, make a fine paste of the garlic and ginger with a little water. Grind the chiles and spices to a fine powder. Add the spices and salt to the pan and stir over low heat for 20 seconds. Add the paste and cook for 2–3 minutes or until the raw smell of garlic has disappeared. Add the tomatoes and a splash of water and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until they have completely broken down. Give the pot an occasional stir and mash the tomato pieces down a little.
Stir in the sugar and vinegar and cook for 2–3 minutes; the masala sauce should be quite thick. Add the shrimp and cook until they have just turned and start to curl up, around 3–4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Grease a round, deep 8- or 9-inch cake pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
For the batter:
Beat together the sugar and butter until soft and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Spoon half the batter into the cake pan. Spread the filling over it, distributing the shrimp evenly. Pour the remaining batter over the top and bake in the middle of the oven for 55–60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry. Serve in wedges with a lightly dressed salad.