A classic recipe for a staple Goan Prawn and Radish Curry (Soongta Hooman in Konkani) made with Daikon that you’ll find in every home. A simple curry that only just needs a bowl of steamed rice for a complete soul-satisfying meal. Don’t believe me? Ask a Goan!
Few meals in this world are as special to me as a classic Goan one – not only because I’m born Goan and it’s the food I grew up with; but also because I inherently love the simplicity of the way our cuisine is cooked. You can prepare incredibly satisfying feasts with a combination of basic pantry staples and fresh seafood or vegetables. It’s how my mother cooks, and it is what she handed down to me in food-related wisdom. Being a busy full-time working mum of two she was always strapped for time. But I don’t remember a single day growing up where we didn’t have a complete meal made from scratch at home. She’d wake up early and get cooking our breakfast and lunch straight away. By the time my sister and I would be at the breakfast table before school, she’d be switching off the stove on one of her dishes and starting prep on frying fish. All this well before 8am in the morning. I only aspire to be that disciplined.
Meals in our home were always simple and based on fresh/seasonal produce available. So which fish curry would be cooked depended entirely on what was fresh when Dad was at the market. A typical Goan Thali (or plate) must have a fish/shell-fish curry, a simple vegetable side-dish, rice and fish fry. Any additions or deletions to this is possible – some have a pickle, others don’t. Some might even have another seafood side-dish. What binds a lot of it together is the use of fresh grated coconut. In some dishes they have more of a guest appearance, just a sprinkle at the end, almost garnish like. In other cases, like in the case of the prawn curry I share with you today, they are at the core.
The characters of this prawn curry are simple – fresh plump prawns are a must. If you can handle it, even add the prawn heads as it elevates the flavors while also tasting great when you suck out the prawn meat when cooked. When paired with white radish (Daikon / mooli) it adds the perfect pungent-sweet flavor that elevates this curry. Also, never replace the whole red chillies with chilli powder – it is simply not a substitute and makes the flavors rather flat. Ask me, I’ve ruined many a curry when I started off cooking for not having the better sense to avoid powdered chillies.
Once you have the ingredients ready, it really doesn’t take very long to put this dish together. You can increase the heat of the dish if you’d like – but I like it mild enough that each of the flavor sings and the sweetness of the prawns stands out. When mastered, this is one curry so easy to rustle up that you’ll find yourself making it often. A bowl of steamed rice and side of fresh steamed greens/veggies complete the meal.