Goa is the smallest state of India. Standing on the shore of the Arabian Sea in Western India, Goa was a Portuguese colony for as long as 450 years. In 1961 it was annexed by India. The long rule of the Portuguese has left a tremendous mark on the socioeconomic fabric of Goa, one of them being the unique Goan cuisine. When, after living so close to Goa for one and half years, finally the chance to visit this coastal state presented itself, I found myself combing the internet to delve deep into Goan food. Having local food is always one of the experiences that we prioritize. When we finally reached Goa, the swaying palm trees, the green paddy fields and the relaxed vibe among the locals enticed me more to taste the food they consume, the food that keeps them so content and happy. I am jotting down the most noteworthy food and beverages that we tried for the short period of time we were in Goa.
We are non vegetarians and all the items listed below are non vegetarian in nature.
Xacuti is a local Konkani delicacy which was on the Goans’ plate from the pre Portuguese era. Its history is said to be tied with the fishermen, who traditionally ate this dish. We tried prawn Xacuti in a beach shack at Colva. We ordered white rice to go along with it and some chilled beer to wash the food down. A bowl of small prawns in thick reddish gravy was served to us. Coconut was the dominant flavour. The generous amount of spice, particularly the chillies, set our tongue on fire.
Tasting Vindaloo, the famous Goan cuisine, was half the reason I wanted to visited Goa. Vindaloo had found its way to Goa through the Portuguese. However, the dish underwent several changes once in India. Local spices and herbs were introduced in its preparation. This cuisine has found elite places in international kitchens. We gorged on chicken Vindaloo and Tandoori roti at 49ers restaurant in Colva. There were options of chicken/prawn/pork Vindaloo on the menu. I layered the roti with sufficient gravy and wrapped a chunk of chicken in it. Tanginess overwhelmed all my senses the moment I put the first bite. If I am to believe the menu card, Feni, the local liquor, is used to prepare it along with other native spices. The strong tanginess of Vindaloo still lingers on my tongue.
Cafreal is another spicy Goan curry which traditionally has chicken or pork in it. Like Vindaloo, Cafreal was also introduced in the Goan kitchens by the Portuguese. They borrowed this dish from Mozambique, another past era Portuguese colony in Africa. Liberal use of coriander in it provides a green color to the curry. It was beautifully served to us with cucumber, tomato and onion forming a crown around the bowl. We enjoyed Chicken Cafreal, once again with Tandoori Roti. Tamarind and Vinegar are used interchangeably in Cafreal. According to the menu, rum also plays a role in its preparation. Cafreal can also be enjoyed dry as a starter.
Goan Crab curry
Crabs form an essential part of any seafood platter including that in Goa. Freshly caught crabs are simmered in coconut milk and flavoured with local spices like cumin, cinnamon, fennel seeds and peppercorns. The staff at St.Anthony’s After Dark near Calangute beach served us a crab submerged in golden yellow gravy with white rice. Within the hard shell of the crab was juicy tender meat.(Here is something you can laugh about: I chipped my incisors while trying to break its shells. I got it repaired from my dentist but she warned me never to try to break open something hard again with it.)
Feni is the local alcoholic beverage of Goa which is brewed from cashews and coconuts. Feni is mostly manufactured by the villagers of Goa in their homes. Cashew Feni of Goa also secured a GI tag in 2009. Intrigued by the popularity of this local alcohol, we decided to taste it. Feni is a strong liquor. Since we were travelling with family, we took no risk and ordered only a single at the bar of 49ers in Colva. It had a nutty taste to it, something which we liked instantly.
This list covers almost all the local food that we experimented with while in Goa. We would love to go back in the laidback state to enjoy its wide variety of Portuguese-influenced food.
Have you tasted any Goan delicacy on your trip to Goa? Please feel free to share your experience by commenting below.
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