Home » Cuisine of the month » Goan

Goa's 450 years under Portuguese rule has produced a unique blend of eastern and western cuisine that is at once exotic and strangely familiar. The state's separate identity is perceptible in other ways too, most visibly in its Latin style architecture, but also in a preference for a fish-and-meat-rich cuisine. Another marked difference is the predominance of alcohol. Beer is cheap and six thousand or more bars around the state are licensed to serve it, along with the more traditional tipples of feni - the local hooch and toddy - a derivative of palm sap.

The various influences have made the Goan cuisine an interesting blend of tastes as a result of which it has a phenomenal repertoire of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. Though the recipes and techniques of the two major communities – Hindu and Christian – are different but as a rule the cuisine that comes under the umbrella of Goan is simple but chilli hot and spicy. Traditionally the food is cooked on wood fires in clay pots that are fired by the village potter. Though in the modern times, quite a few Goans have had to leave their land in search of greener pastures, they still get homesick for the smoky flavour of the fish curry and rice that get their distinct taste being cooked in crowded sweaty, smoky kitchens in earthenware pots over wood fires.

Famous for its vast seafood resources, the Goan fish curry and rice can tickle the most demanding of taste buds. Come carnival time and the land is flush with colour, food and drink and people make merry through the day and night. Colourful clothes and flowers vie with each other for attention. And the entire festivities end at the dinner table laden with delicacies. 

Fairs, festivals and celebrations with Goan food

Endless stretches of silver sands, blue waters, clear blue sky mirroring the sea below, brilliant green fields lush with the paddy crops, acres and acres of coconut plantations swaying gently in the wind, beautiful white churches and Portuguese style mansions standing out against the startlingly red soil, long nights spent over brewed feni, longer days of sun, sand and sea. All these contribute to the lethargy that is unique to Goa.

Goa is one of the youngest states of the Indian Union, having attained statehood after 451 years of colonial rule and 26 years as Union territory. Goa exports large amounts of coconut, spices, fruits, manganese, iron, fish and salt. Rice is a major crop though cashewnuts, pulses and betel (areca nut) are also produced in abundance.

Fairs, festivals and celebrations
The best part of the celebrations is that they are enjoyed without any caste or religion barriers. The biggest celebrations are at Panjim and Margao. Besides the traditional festivals there are also village feasts - each village in Goa has a patron saint that has his/her own feast day - which are quaint, colourful and charming local events.

During Christmas and carnival times Goa is teemed with visitors from far and near who throng to the state to revel in the fun, games and exotic food. The streets are filled with the merry makers when floats depicting the various aspects of Goan life are driven through the streets accompanied by people in colourful clothes and brilliantly hued flowers.

Mardi Gras Carnival, held for three days in February or early March just before the Lent, it is a feast celebrated since the 18th century full of eating-drinking-merry-making characterised by the huge parades accompanied with bands, floats and dances. Around the month of March, the full-moon festival of Holi goes by the name of Shigmo and is celebrated with big parades with drums and dance groups competing with huge floats.

A Goan wedding is a splendoured affair. Preparations start months in advance when besides preparing an elaborate trousseau relatives and neighbours gather at the bride’s house to help make papads, pickle and other preserves that will not only be served at the wedding feast but also sent to the bridegroom’s home. The wedding ceremony comprises of a number of rituals and the end of which the guests and the hosts partake of a sumptuous meal the menu of which is more or less fixed. It comprises of Lonche (pickle), Papad, Coconut Chutney, Koshimbir, Muga gathi (a gravied dish of whole green gram), Batata bhaji, bhajee (vegetable fritters), Panchamrut (a sweet sour chutney of coconut and dry fruits), Varan bhaat, Masale bhaat, Jalebi, Shrikhand and finally rounded off with Tival (kokum extract tempered with mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves). 

Some of the popular Goan dishes include

Caldo Verde: A wholesome soup, typical of Goa, made of potatoes and green leafy vegetable.

Kairiche Panne: A refreshing drink made from raw mangoes.

Prawn Cutlet: Prawns and bread mixed with onion, garlic and other spices and fried to a golden brown, a delicious starter.

Mashli Gashi: Coconut oil lends its special flavour to this fish delicacy cooked in coconut milk and other spices.

Chicken Xacuti: A spicy chicken preparation in tangy coconut gravy, speciality of Viva la de Goa.

Tender Coconut and Cashewnut Sukke: Simply delicious is this combination of tender coconut and cashewnuts cooked in coconut milk with other spices.

Rice Chapatti: Rice and coconut ground together, shaped into chapattis and roasted. Goes well with mutton or chicken curry.

Dodol: A delicious rice and coconut dessert, a must at special occasions in Goa.

Bibinca: a famous dessert prepared in Goa. This multilayered Goan cake takes ample of time for preparation, but the outcome of patience is amazingly sweet. 

Recommended Recipes

Recent Cuisines