Like the country itself, Goa food is a mix of east meets west, being both spicy and flavoursome. Its strong history has influenced its food dramatically, meaning dishes are frequently divided into two groups: Goan Hindu cuisine and Goan Catholic cuisine.
Hindu cuisine is less spicy, less oily and centres around ingredients such as lentils, gourd, pumpkins, shoots, bamboo and root vegetables. Goan Catholic cuisine on the other hand, is highly influenced by Konkani, South Indian, Portuguese (who colonised the area in the 18th and 19th centuries), British and Saraswat cuisines, focusing mainly on onion or garlic flavours, with plenty of seafood and meat. However both cuisine types share a reputation for taste and freshness, with presentation being paramount as Goans often share their food with neighbours.
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While the techniques and recipes of Goan cuisine have changed several times over the years, the primary ingredients have remained the same. Coconut features heavily in many of the dishes, along with more unusual ingredients such as breadfruit and papaya, which give a distinctive flavour. In general, Goans have a very diverse serving of food types ranging from prawns to sausages, chicken to beef, and numerous vegetarian dishes.
Technique is equally important to producing the famous taste of Goa food; if you visit any rural area, the locals can be seen cooking in the clay pots on firewood – the source of the smoky flavour of many Goan dishes. Over time, cooking methods have been blended together and allowed to simmer, producing an authentic selection of delicacies. Here are our pick of the six best Goan dishes:
This pork-based dish is perfect if you like your food to be spicy. Pieces of boneless pork are first parboiled, then finely diced, before being cooked in a sauce infused with two types of chilli, turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar and onion. You’ll typically find sorpotel served with sanna, a rice and coconut cake that often accompanies Goan meals instead of bread. Sorpotel usually tastes better on the 2nd and 3rd day, after it has had time to mature.
As you might expect from its coastal location on the Arabian Sea, seafood is a staple part of the Goan diet. You’ll find all manner of fish curries on the menu, with many featuring a coconut milk sauce. Xitt coddi is a yellowish-red curry, due to the presence of chillies and turmeric in its sauce, while Ambot Tik can be served with either fish or prawns, and has a sweet and sour flavour.
Chicken cafreal consists of fried or grilled chicken in a spicy coating, often served with a green salad or some plain rice. This specialty is heavily influenced by the Portuguese, with the marinade used on the meat strongly resembling peri-peri sauce. This sauce is made from coriander, lime, green chillies, peppercorns and mint.
This is a mixed vegetable curry, featuring carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and French beans in a sweet and sour curry sauce. A vegetarian’s favourite – this dish is a hotpot of rich flavours.Enjoy Khatkhatem with steamed rice to allow the various spices to come through as you enjoy your meal.
One of Goa’s most famous desserts, bibinca first appears to be a layered cake, but when you take a closer look, you’ll discover its layers are thick pancakes made from egg, coconut milk, sugar and ghee. Cooking a perfect bebinca is considered an art form and a huge amount of patience is needed to prepare it correctly. The next layer can only be added once the previous layer has been cooked in the oven until it has a light fudge consistency. Bibinca can be eaten hot or cold and is traditionally served at Christmas.
Feni is a kind of liqueur made from either the juice of a cashew fruit or the sap from a coconut palm. The best-quality feni is distilled at least two, and normally three, times, making it quite strong, but don’t worry, you don’t have to drink it neat, it’s often served with a mixer like tonic or lemonade. The word ‘feni’ derives from the word ‘fenn’, which means froth. In fact, a good feni, when poured in a glass produces a little froth, which is an indication of the superior quality of the product.
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