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The Portuguese Connection

The advent of the Portuguese in India brought some exciting dishes to our country. Items like Vindaloo and Balchao are just two examples of dishes from the Portuguese repertoire that made their way to India and became integrated with the local cuisine of the region that comprises modern-day Goa at present.

The establishment of the first Portuguese colony in India was preceded by the arrival of the famed explorer, Vasco da Gama in 1498 CE. The first wave of Portuguese settlers started arriving in India from the early 1500s and they brought with them their traditional recipes and menus. Across hundreds of years, these dishes were customised and modified to substitute locally available Indian spices, oils and other ingredients. The flavour changed but the essence of the dish largely remained the same even after undergoing “indigenisation”.

It’s not just recipes; the Portuguese settlers also introduced guavas, pineapples, tomatoes and cashew nuts in India. They also brought with them a spice that would dramatically transform the spice landscape of Indian cuisine: the red chilli. The dish that we will be preparing today is a Fish Stew in a Portuguese style. In Portugal, this dish is made with sea bass. In India, this fish has many names: in Kerala, they call is Kalanchi; in Tamil Nadu, it is called Koduvai; and in Bengal, it is known as Bhetki.

You will notice that to remain true to the essence of the original Portuguese flavour very minimal Indian spices have been used – just a smattering of bay leaves and a sprinkling of coriander leaves with a dash of Mustard Oil instead of olive oil. But these little Indian touches are enough to make this dish come alive.

So let’s get started on our Portuguese delicacy. Here are the ingredients that you will require.


• Sea Bass: 600 grams • Onion: 1, medium-sized • Tomatoes: 500 grams • Capsicum: 1, medium-sized • Garlic (Lasun): 4 cloves • Mustard Oil: 3 tablespoons • Bay Leaves (Tej Patta):2 • Coriander (Dhania) Leaves: 2 tablespoons • Black Pepper Powder: Half a teaspoon • Salt: to taste

The quantities mentioned above are for preparing four servings. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.

Preparation: Remove the skin of the sea bass and cut the fish into small chunks. Ideally, the pieces will be around two to three inches in length. Season with freshly ground black pepper powder and salt. Peel, wash and finely slice the onion. Dice the tomatoes. Chop the capsicum into small pieces. Peel, wash and finely chop the garlic cloves. Coarsely chop the coriander leaves.

Method: Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a High flame. The oil will shortly reach its smoking point and streams of white smoke will begin to rise from the surface of the hot oil. Turn the flame down to Medium.To the hot oil, add the bay leaves and sauté for around half a minute. Next, add the onion, tomatoes, capsicum and garlic. Add salt to taste (remember, you have already seasoned the fish with salt so add extra salt with care). Stir for a minute or so, then cover the pan and cook for around 10 minutes till the vegetables become soft.

Now add around 250 millilitres of water to the pan. Place the pieces of fish among the vegetables. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to Low, and let the contents simmer till the fish is cooked. This should take around seven minutes. Then turn the flame off.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Your Portuguese-style Fish Stew is now ready. Serve it with slices of lightly toasted bread.

You can find more recipes at :

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