There is truth in the sa ying that you can get to the heart of a city b y sampling its local flavours. Well, not a city alone, in this case, the State of Goa too. After all, indigenous flavours are best experienced where they originate.
You could eat out every meal in Goa and yet not try out all the great food that Goa offers. After all, Goa is synonymous with a good time and it definitely begins with food. Goan cuisine has a number of influences from its Hindu foundations, contemporary methods of culinary art and 400 years of Portuguese rule.
Sea food, meat and rice are the staple diet of the Goans and at times a few vegetables, mainly beans are included. No authentic Goan meal is complete without Pork Vindaloo, Pork Sorpotel, Chicken Cafreal, Mutton Xacuti, fish or Prawn curry and rice. Although these dishes today are considered typical Goan fare, most of these owe their origin to the Portuguese rule over Goa.
Goa which was predominantly a Hindu region, was taken over by the Portuguese in 1505 and in 1961, it was re-occupied by India. Thus, the Goan cuisine is greatly influenced by the Portuguese, but the Hindu stream still continues to be alive, simultaneously. The arrival of the Portuguese altered the food habits of the people of Goa, and they adapted to it, over the years adding their own culinary expertise to it. A lot of new fruits and vegetables – potato, tomato, pumpkin, aubergine, cashew nut, papaya, which were unknown to the locals were introduced and these became an intrinsic part of the daily cuisine and enriched the culinary art of Goa.
The cuisine of the Christian community apart, the Goan Saraswat Hindu cuisine too, is equally flavourful. The diet of the Christian community has pork as staple and they use a lot of vinegar in the dishes. The Hindu line of cuisine, also called Saraswat, includes fish and seafood.
Bebinca is the first name that typically comes to mind when we talk of Goan desserts. Dodol, pinang, bolinha, are other Goan sweets, but the range is wide to choose from when in Goa. Some of the desserts are of Portuguese origin and thus not too common in cake shops and confectioners. Here are five lesser known dishes characteristic of Goa.
Pork Amsol is one such dish that represents the flavours of Goa and yet, is not too common. The dish is made with pork and kokum. Filled with amazing flavours, the dish is mildly spiced and is balanced with right amount of sourness. The goan delicacy is easy to make and does not require sauteing of onions. Chef Tanveer Kwatra, Director of Cuisine, W Goa, opines, “I feel pork amsol is an understated dish as pork dishes like sorpotel, ad maas, vindaloo have been showstoppers on the restaurant menus.”
He adds, “Kokum is one of the key ingredients in the dish and other than that the basic spices such cumin, turmeric, red chilli complete the flavour profile. It is sweet and sour in taste, with semi stew pork pieces doused in an aromatic gravy. I always like the pork fat floating on top of the sauce.”
Whitebait Rawa Fry
The crunchy, deep-fried, tiny sliver fish – whitebait is a delightful treat for the palate. Not too many people are familiar with its flavours, but this tiny fish lends itself perfectly to spices and the flavours come alive when fried with a semolina covering and served with drinks as a starter.
One cannot possibly experience a Goan Saraswat meal and not relish the Moongacho gaathi or curried green gram. The sprouted green grams and soaked cashew nuts are cooked in a coconut based gravy, traditionally served with pooris. Master Chef Deepa Awchat of Goa Portuguesa emphasises the importance of this dish, “There cannot be a wedding or religious function without this dish on the menu. It is very nutritious too and rich in protein and fibre.”
The Portuguese sawdust chilled pudding, Serradura, is a simple and comforting dessert which does not require any cooking or baking or much setting time. Marie biscuits, are crushed until they resemble sawdust. To this, crushed cashew nuts, blend whipped cream and condensed milk and vanilla essence (optional), are added and set in layers.
The pudding is then refrigerated for few hours and served in a glass. Chef Sunit Sharma, Executive Chef, Cidade de Goa, elaborates, “Suddenly Serradura has been rediscovered and caught everyone’s fancy. It has come out of the home kitchen and is being made in several hotels and restaurants. The Portuguese legacy of the dessert combined with its ease and simplicity (just 4 ingredients) scores over other internationally well-known dessert like Bebinca, which is very laborious to prepare.”
Yet another dessert in Goa which may not be easily available, but few restaurants have it on their menu, are the coconut and jaggery-filled thin pancakes or crepes, Alle Belle. A common home-treat, made with maida, eggs, milk, fresh coconut, the black colour pyramid palm jaggery and a pinch of cardamom, these are typically eaten in Goan households at tea time. These are also prepared on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday just before Lent.