Goa is synonymous with the thought of sunny beaches, beautiful old chapels and colonial buildings, open stretches of roads winding through foliage, ancient forts and most importantly- the most mouth watering food imaginable. A whole host of culinary influences- Portuguese cuisine, the fresh seafood caught off the coast, Konkani and Malabar recipes, neighboring Maharashtrian and Karnatak inputs have all amalgamated into a true culinary melting pot of what is now considered a cuisine unique to Goa. Read on to find out more about some age old favorites including the most notable Xacuti and Vindaloo, and discover some unique and new local delicacies to add to your itinerary the next time you visit!
Vindaloo is a delicious, aromatic curry, featuring on most menus as a fiery dish bursting with flavor. Traditionally prepared with pork, it can be made with all sorts of meats and a lot of cafes keep up with the times and even feature vegan adaptations of this Goan staple! Derived from a Portuguese recipe for “ meat in garlic wine marinade “, it was originally prepared by the Portuguese sailors by preserving raw ingredients of pork and garlic soaked in red wine, in wooden barrels. This was adapted by the Goan cooks using vinegar instead and adding red chilli peppers ( got to have that kick of spice!) and other aromats. This soul fulfilling, rich and delicious curry goes the best with Sannas- the next on our list of local delicacies.
Sanna is a spongy, steamed savoury rice cake originating in the western coastal regions. A cousin of the idli, its made predominantly with coconut milk, coconut water and urad dal giving it a distinct nutty flavour. Fermented in toddy and steamed to perfection, these fluffy cakes dunked in a rich spicy coconut curry is what culinary dreams are made of! They are often made during festive occasions and catholic church fests with a sweet version also made using jaggery. Yum!
On the topic of curry accompaniments, Poee is next on our list. Every reputable bakery in Goa is well stocked with this delicious leavened bread, the rich warm aroma of freshly baked goods is utterly irresistible. But you better hurry and head there early or all the Poee is sure to sell out! Made from wheat flour and bran, this fluffy hollow bread is a healthier option for the weight conscious and an altogether delicious Goan staple. Its eaten with breakfast, lunch and dinner often stuffed with delicious Goan chorizo sausages and the perfect accompaniment to savoury dishes like Xacuti.
Ahhh… Xacuti. The name itself makes one reminiscent of sunny coastal cafes, the sea breeze, a chilled beer in hand and a delicious, filling meal of this aromatic Goan curry. This dish has a blend of spices including white poppy seeds, grated coconut and of course, a generous amount of dried red chilli. Made with fish, chicken or lamb meat, it originated in Arambol where the fishermen of the old days used to reel in their catch of the day and prepare the gravy for this dish. The hero ingredient contributing to its unique flavour is mildly roasted coconut kernel that is finely grated and added to the aromatic blend. Heavenly!
Another delicious curry fit for a feast is the famous Sorpatel… a dish of Portuguese origin that is strongly rooted in Goan culture. Made of a medley of red and organ meat cooked in a spicy, vinegary masala, no festive occasion is complete without Sorpatel! A generous serving over a bed of steaming rice takes the edge off the spice and makes for a filling and yummy meal.
Breakfast like a king, they say… the Goans definitely do it best with the local speciality Raas Omelette to start the day with! This hearty meal consist of a fluffy omelette cooked to its eggy perfection, garnished with finely chopped onions and coriander and smothered in a generous ladleful of “Raas”- typically Spicy Xacuti. This divine dish remains incomplete without a freshly baked Poee to scoop up the rich gravy. Honestly the perfect meal for any time of the day!
Now we get to the soul of Goan Cuisine… the delicious, fresh and bountiful SEAFOOD! Calamari, Fish, Prawns, Octopus… you name it and there’s a mouth watering culinary rendition available across the coast. Mandke Rechado Fry is a Goan speciality fried squid, stuffed with a traditional sweet, sour and spicy masala red paste. A heady, delicious explosion of favour, this is a seafood lovers’ dream.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten dessert! We have just the thing to satiate that sweet tooth and quell the fiery trail of all those spice laden curries! Bebinca ( pronounced Bibinc ) is a traditional Goan sweet dish specifically made for Christmas. This Goan “Christmas Pudding” is a complex 7 layered affair, rich with sugar, coconut, refined flour, egg yolks and ghee. Definitely one of the yummiest ways to end a meal. You’ll need a nice seaside jog after dinner to work of all those calories, but its absolutely worth it !
Lets end on an entertaining note- we can hardly speak of the Goan cuisine without a mention of the booze! Fenni is cashew or coconut (toddy) liquor, a traditional local delicacy savored across the globe. From cheap, local brands available at every stop to refined international brands that produce the stuff on a large scale sold in fancy ceramic or glass bottles, you’ll find it all! Take an eco-tour of the sprawling cashew plantations and follow the drinks’ manufacturing process right from the fruit. This heady and robust liquor can be served neat, but is best enjoyed mixed in Limca. Bottoms Up!