When we think of Goa, most people have visuals of sun, sand, beaches and for the more adventurous, Feni. What remains unappreciated by a lot of people is Goan food. Goan food, while largely being influenced by the Portuguese, is enriched by ingenious additions from Goan chefs down the ages, and has evolved into an integral part of Indian Cuisines. Here is a selection of my top seven dishes from Goa:
1.Bebinca: A delicious Goan Dessert, Bebinca is essentially a multi-layered pudding/cake with flour, eggs, clarified butter, coconut milk and sugar being the key ingredients. It is believed that the more the layers in the pudding, the tastier it is. I have seen Bebinkas with as many as 10 layers. This is soft, moist, sweet and amazingly delicious, and goes really well with a scoop of ice-cream on the side and it is rightly called the Queen of Goan desserts.
2. Pork Vindaloo: Vindaloo is actually the Indian version of the Portuguese ‘Carne de vinha d’alhos‘, which translates to meat in a garlic-wine marinade. This was Indianized by substituting vinegar for wine, and the addition of red chilli-peppers, and a few other spices, to get the dish that we today call, Vindaloo. Contrary to popular misconception, Vindaloo does not contain any ‘aloo’ or potato. Traditionally, pork and rabbit meat go well with Vindaloo, and Pork Vindaloo in Goa is a must have.
3. Ox Tongue: Sounds cringeworthy right? I was pretty skeptical when I was asked to try this delicacy at one of Goa’s prominent establishments. However, after tasting it, my skepticism turned to surprise. Ox Tongue is prepared by curing the meat with salt and a few other spices for as long as 7 days. This salty-meaty treat goes really well with Goan Feni or even a chilled glass of beer.
4. Goan Fish Curry: The konkan coast is famous for producing a rich variation of the fish curry using fresh coconut milk and kokum to produce a dish that is sour, slightly sweet and spicy and absolutely lip-smacking. The fresh produce from Goa, and freshly extracted kokum juice adds a taste to this dish that is hard to replicate with preserved produce. Replace the fish with prawns, chicken or any meat you fancy, and this dish would taste just as good.
5. Pork Sorpotel: Sorpotel or Sarapatel is again of Portuguese origin, the word,’Soro’, means alcohol or liquor in konkani .This is a sour and spicy dish, with Pork being the meat of choice in this dish and it is famous in Goa, Mangalore and even Mumbai. Slight regional variations such as the addition of toddy vinegar or tamarind add different dimensions to this dish and generally it gets its richness from the addition of liver.
6. Chicken Xacuti: This is another inspired dish from Goa, and what differentiates this preparation from other dishes, is the addition of white poppy seeds and coconut, which thickens the gravy. Some other spices that further elevate this dish include nutmeg, mace, fennel seeds and star anise.
7. Goan Chorizo: Chorizo or Chouriço are pork sausages that are made using cured pork meat which are heavily seasoned using a variety of spices. These are sun-dried and then smoked slowly. There are several varieties, and they are best enjoyed along with local Goan breads such as the pão.
While there are no dearth of places in Goa which serve authentic Goan food, there are several which aren’t as authentic, and they end up ruining your Goa-Food experience. Two of the best places in Goa to enjoy Goan Cuisine in all its glory are:
1. Casa Sarita at Park Hyatt Goa: The signature restaurant of Park Hyatt Goa, Casa Sarita has managed to preserve the heritage of Goan cuisine while using fresh produce of high quality. This translates into food that is soulful, homely and yet elegant.
Recommended Dishes : Fish/Prawn Curry With Goan Red Rice, Choris Pao, Pork Vindaloo
2. Nostalgia: Located in Margao , this is a restaurant unlike any other you would have seen. Set in a traditional Goan House, with the decor having curious bric–à–brac, like traditional cooking utensils from the 80’s, an ancient Soda Machine and many others, this place will fascinate you. The food items too use home-ground masalas and traditional techniques for cooking. A true hidden gem of the Goan Culinary world.
Recommended Dishes : Ox Tongue, Chicken/Beef Xacuti, Sannas, Bebinka