Goa is best known for the sparkling string of yellow sand beaches that fringes the state from top to toe. But beyond the lure of the Arabian sea coast, its trance parties and boutique beach shacks, Goa is a jewel for the gastronomic traveller, shaped by a history of Portuguese rule and a mix of religions.
If you’re planning to visit this beautiful Indian paradise, then check out our recommendations for the best regional food and drink to try during your stay…
1. Pork vindaloo
Derived from the Portuguese words for garlic (alho) and wine (vinho), combined in a marinade, this spicy Goan curry originated from a Portuguese sailor’s dish made with – yes, that’s right – pork, garlic and wine. Goan cooks substituted palm vinegar for red wine and added chilli peppers and spices.
2. Crab xec xec
This thick roasted curry is made with grated coconut and strong spices such as cloves and tamarind. It’s the ultimate dish for crustacean lovers, served with rice or bread.
3. Prawn balchão
Served as an accompaniment to a rice dish, or spread on toast, this is a spice-infused prawn pickle comprised of a fiery tomato and chilli sauce, made with caramelised onions and coconut toddy vinegar.
Also known as idli in India, sanna are spongy steamed rice cakes. The plain version is often eaten with Goan pork sorpotel curry, and a sweet version called godachi sanna is made with jaggery – unrefined sugar made from cane or palm.
5. Goan red rice
Also called ukda rice, this is popular in gourmet circles in India. An unpolished thick-grained rice with a reddish-brown colour and nutty flavour, its firm texture makes it excellent for soaking up coconut curries.
6. Chouris pão
A tasty Goan sausage bread, made with Portuguese chouriço, a spiced pork sausage.
Of all the Portuguese-inspired breads in Goa, poee (or poi) is probably the most famous. The first Goan pão (bread) was made using local toddy as a source of natural yeast, giving it an original character. Today, most bakers make it using commercial yeast, which yields the same fluffy interior – perfect for mopping up curries.
Known as vison or visvan, kingfish is a delicacy in Goa. A popular preparation is kingfish rawa fry: fillets are lightly coated in semolina and fried to form a crispy exterior and succulent interior. It’s also used in surmai (kingfish) curry, which contains grated coconut.
A spirit produced exclusively in Goa. Cashew feni, made from the first extract of the cashew, is courtesy of the Portuguese, who first brought cashews to the Indian subcontinent. Coconut feni, distilled from fermented toddy from the coconut palm, is more popular in South Goa.
A multilayered coconut cake truly unique to Goa. Although it requires few ingredients, the dish is tedious to make. Legend has it that the sweet was invented by Bibiona, a nun at the Convent of Santa Monica in Old Goa.3 more travel tips
1. Drink kokum
Kokum, a plant in the mangosteen family is found in the coastal areas of western India. Its ruby-coloured fruits are juiced as well as dried, and used to sour fish and prawn curries in Goan cuisine. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, kokum juice is a refreshing drink to beat the heat. Kokum solkadhi, also known as kokum kadhi, is a spicy-tangy-sweet beverage made with coconut milk, spices and liquid extracted from kokum peel. Good for digestion, it’s served at the end of meals.
2. Visit the markets
Goa’s bustling markets are bursting with everything from trinkets to food. Mapusa Market, an authentic local bazaar, is a vibrant spot that draws vendors from across Goa. Shoppers haggle for the best prices on produce as well as clothing, antiques, souvenirs and textiles. Others markets worth visiting include the Anjuna Flea Market and Calangute Market Square.
3. Talk to the locals
Goans are friendly and happy to share their thoughts on local cuisine, their Portuguese past, and the ever-evolving dining scene.