Often you go visit a place, but the cuisine is not something to write home about. It feels that a part of the place is left unexplored. This is definitely not so with Goa. Rest assured, even if you hate to party and crowd makes you nervous, just the culinary repertoire off the state will make it an instant hit with you.
And every word of that headline is true. Goa has a very interesting and textured history. For thousands of years, Hindus and Jains have been living in Goa. Their religious beliefs along with the local flora and fauna have given birth to a cuisine, which is distinctly Goan in flavour. The Muslim invaders and rulers also brought cultural nuances that added new tastes to the Goan cuisine.
Then came the West with the Portuguese and the Italians. The explorers brought new twists with new vegetables from their expeditions all over the world. Today, all these flavours have come to form a happy cuisine that will excite your taste buds, and also, make you think about how they happened to come together. Here’s very, very short list of Goa’s culinary surprises with ten delicacies, you just can’t miss any of them. Let’s begin the treat!
Let’s not forget that glorious beach and the mighty Arabian Sea. Goa has an exhaustive seafood repertoire. The prawn is an all-time favourite with everyone. Its taste will make you an instant fan as its history will surprise you.
When the Portuguese started out to explore the world, they needed food that would last days without going bad or much fuss over it. Macao housewives discovered a way of ‘pickle-ing’ fish, poultry, pork or mutton for the purpose. From Macao, Balchao travelled to the Goan shores. This hot and spicy curry made with prawn is a testament of Goa’s varied culture.
This again is a Portuguese import. The preparation lasts a long time as this was also made to last on long sea tours. Pork is marinated in wine and garlic. ‘Vin’ comes from Portuguese for wine and ‘aloo’ denotes garlic. After coming to India, the wine was replaced with cane vinegar. The preparation of the traditional vindaloo takes at least a day as the meat is kept marinated in vinegar with garlic. Miss this delicacy and your taste buds will never experience the melting of pork so deliciously punctuated with a spicy and sour curry.
The Portuguese went to Brazil and discovered chilli, cashew nuts, potatoes and tomatoes among many other things. Those vegetables new to the known world gave rise to many exotic delicacies. Crab Xecxec is one of those happy creations.
Goa’s famous rock crabs are cooked in roasted coconut, chilli, garlic, ginger and onion curry. The curry is an example of what Goa stands for the chilli comes from the Portuguese, turmeric is added as an indigenous influence and the crab and coconut are the bounty of nature.
The Goan’s love for this sour and spicy delicacy, generally, made with a variety of fish tells the love story of the state with fish. Mackerel, shark, pomfret, a large number of fish is used to prepare this beloved dish. This is another instance where the Portuguese influence can be traced. Usage of chilli, tomatoes and other spices makes the preparation a perfect gift for cajoling the taste buds.
The Konkani side of Goa’s culture is prevalent today with food and cultural references. Sanna, a rice cake is such an instance. This cake is a favourite with the Goan, Konkani diaspora living along the west coast of India. During Hindu festivals and anniversaries, you will never miss these little delicacies in Goa.
If one dish is held very, very close to the heart of Goan populace and is a matter of family pride, it is the pork preparation called Sorpotel. Again, a Portuguese-influenced curry, different versions of the dish are found along the western coast of India. Also, Brazil has its own version of the dish.
Weddings, anniversaries, Christmas – Sorpotel, is never given a miss in Goa. The prestige of a culinary expert is often decided by the taste of his/her Sorpotel. The dish often comes with the company of Sanna. Not tasting and enjoying Sorpotel while visiting Goa is probably the biggest mistake you can hazard.
Old Goa used to be the spice hub of the western coast of India. Spice merchants from China, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and many European countries visited the city, made deals with gold as they bought and sold exotic spices. Reacheado is a culinary testament to this amazing spice trade. Red chillies, peppercorns, cumin, ginger, garlic, onion: the dish calls for an eclectic collection of spices and vegetables. And Goa being a naturally gifted region, fish, poultry, lamb or mutton is used for the curry. Tasting Reacheado will be an experience you can’t afford to miss.
If you want to experience the African style of cooking, you just need to order Chicken Cafreal in Goa. When the Portuguese explored Africa, they discovered the African style stewing of poultry and other meat and fish as a complete meal. They brought the technique to India.
The chicken or the preferred meat or fish is slow cooked with a paste of herbs and spices; the resulting dish is a melting delicacy ready to make your taste buds go crazy.
Perhaps this is Goa’s version of the robust meal: fish curry with rice or Xit kodi. The preparation has local flavours packed into it and the simplicity depicts a man’s basic needs covered in a sophisticated manner.
This is the signature Goan sweet. The sweet custard is made with coconut milk, flour, sugar and butter. The baked custard is made in layers. So, when you dig your spoon into a piece of Bebinca, you will see the brown lines as the crust formed during the baking process. No trip to Goa is complete without enjoying a piece of this local special.