Karwar is a small town on the western coast of India, just south of Goa. It was an ancient site of sea trade visited by the Arabs, Dutch, Portuguese, French and later the British. Karwar is still known for its pristine beaches and a bustling seaport.
Although a lot of information can be found on Goan cuisine, the cuisine of Karwar is largely a well kept secret. The two happen to have a few commonalities but still differ in taste, flavor and variety. You will not find any cookbooks revealing the regional recipes and the only way to get them is through a native. And so I did! One of my friends happens to be from Karwar. She has also lived in Mumbai and Goa, but is loyal to her Karwari roots. After months of persuasion, she finally let me into her classified kitchen closet in Atlanta where she showed me her stack of whole spices that I had never seen or heard of before. Among these was my new discovery – white kokum phool. Kokum is a small round fruit that has its origins in India. It has a sweet and sour taste, similar to tamarind. It is dried and sold in packet or made into powder. In Karwar cuisine, it is used as generously as salt and pepper.
During the course of the evening, we prepared shrimp fry, fish fry, and coconut chicken curry. The generous hostess had already cooked other side items to go with our banquet style dinner.
The shrimp and fish fry are prepared in the same manner and served as an appetizer.
1 teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
½ cup semolina (known as Sooji at Indian stores)
Mix the first four ingredients in a small bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice into the spices and add 1 tablespoon of oil to make it pasty. Rub the spice mixture on the shrimps using the half of the lemon to coat. Leave aside for 5 minutes.
Heat oil in a large fry pan on medium temperature. Spread the semolina on a plate. Lightly coat each shrimp with semolina on both sides, and then add to the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve immediately.