April 04, 2022

#BlogchatterA2Z: C for Cuisine -a lot to love on the Goan plate.

One of the most important aspects of any culture, undoubtedly, is its cuisine.

Food provides nourishment for the body and the soul. A well cooked meal not only satiates the palate but also satisfies the mind by triggering the release of Serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone. No wonder we Goans are inherently happy people. Maybe the food we eat has a lot to do with it. 

Goan cuisine is largely influenced by its Goa’s history and geographical position in the Indian  subcontinent. 

The subtropical climate and coastline location ensures that Goa is surrounded by rice fields,  coconut trees, and spice plantations. It is no wonder therefore that seafood, rice, coconut and spices play such an integral role in the Goan kitchen

The origin of the Goan cuisine can be traced back to its various ruling empires; French, Malabar, Sultanate, Portuguese, Malaysian, Chinese etc. 

However, it was the Portuguese (who ruled Goa in the 16th century) that brought along with them a rich bounty of spices, tomatoes, cashews, chillies, potatoes etc. These along with the native produce of coconut vinegar, kokum, palm jaggery, and tamarind came to constitute Goa’s legacy of flavourful cuisine. A confluence of east and west. Foreign and local…the best of both worlds. 

Let’s talk local: 

Goa has a rich variety of indigenous fruits and vegetables. 

These include:

1) The Goan variety of mushrooms (almi)

2) Bottle gourd, locally called ‘Ghosali’

3) Vinegar (coconut vinegar and palm vinegar)

4) Kokum

5) Tamarind 

These vegetables are cooked in authentic  Goan masalas that have the power to take your cooking to another level.  However, we Goans are extremely secretive about our recipes. We may invite you to a home cooked meal, but ask us to partake with our Goan special masala and we will laugh it off. No daughter of the soil will willingly trade her homemade masala for any amount of money. However, if you look in the right places, you may still find an occasional local home business marketing masalas that are pretty close to the real deal. Popular among these are the Xacuti masala, Rachaedo masala, Caldin masala, Cafreal masala, Balchao. These are usually used to cook gravies of chicken and sea food but can be used to make vegetarian curries as well. 

The staple Goan diet:

They say you can remove a Goan out of Goa, but you can never remove Goa out of a Goan. 

Ask any food-loving Goan (especially one away from home) to talk about Goa, and he will have mentioned rice and fish curry within the first thirty seconds of the conversation.  

Traditionally, the Goan plate would ideally consist of xiit (rice), hooman (fish curry), fried fish, kismur, sol kadhi, bhaaji (cooked vegetable) and miscellaneous.

Xiit - Most Goans prefer to eat rice made of  ukde tandul (par boiled rice) as opposed to that made of white polished grain. Although a little course in texture, this variety of rice is rich in Vit B and is a lot healthier than the more refined white rice. 

Hooman - this is usually made by grinding coconut, chillies, turmeric, and tamarind and then cooking the fish in this mixture. Fish usually used are prawns, kingfish, mackerels. Coconut milk is added as per preference. Hooman is a rich source of Omega 3 that helps combat depression and increases immunity.

Sol kadhi
- a refreshing blend of mildly sweet coconut milk, kokum and tempered Indian spices, this is known to cool the body in the scorching summer heat and also has digestive properties.

- a crunchy dried-fish salad made usually from dry shrimp or dried fish like mackerel and constitutes an extremely popular accompaniment to Goan fish curry and rice.

Other dishes to try are Goan chicken Cafreal, prawn balchao, chicken xacuti, crab xec xec,  rachaedo masala. 

For the vegetarians: 

“Goa is not for vegetarians” is a popular belief among tourists. And it’s time this myth got busted. 

Here are some lip smacking Goan dishes for the vegetarian soul: 

) Khatkhatem - a mixed vegetable stew that is usually served with rice. It is made by mixing Toor and Chana daal with carrots, potatoes and peas and cooking this in a spicy paste of coconut and red chillies.

2) Sanna - made from coconut and rice, these are the flavourful Goan version of the South Indian Idli.  

3) Moogachi gaathi - sprouted green gram in a coconut based gravy, this preparation (without onion/garlic) is commonly prepared in Hindu households during religious festivals and makes for a scrumptious meal in itself when had with rice or roti.

4) Ambadyachi uddamethi - a dish prepared by cooking hog plums in a thick coconut gravy with a number of flavours thrown in for good measure. Commonly prepared in local households during Diwali. 

5) Goan style tonak - Alsandyache - a rich gravy made with black eyed beans and fresh grated coconut, tempered with a melange of roasted masalas. It is also prepared with chana, masur, chavli, almi etc and serves as a good accompaniment to any Goan meal. Some preparations of tonak include cashew nuts or dried jackfruit seeds. Often eaten for breakfast with undo (local variety of bread). Made in the right way, the Goan tonak can feel like an entire symphony of flavours playing in your mouth. 

Another popular breakfast item in most Goan cafés is mirchi bhaji and salaad (pronounced with a lilt in the second half, not to be mistaken with ‘salad’). I’m not a big fan of the latter, but most Goans are. 

Truth be told, there can exist a Goan version of everything you eat. Given any vegetable, fruit, or fish, we Goans love to add our own twist. It is said that Sachin Tendulkar once requested the owner of Martins Corner (a popular restaurant in South Goa) for the recipe of his famous Goan crab preparation. So impressed was he by the delectable preparation that he was willing to pay a hefty sum to introduce it in his restaurant in Mumbai. 

No points for guessing what happened. The God (of cricket) was politely declined. The Martins' crab still remains his favorite dish. But he has to come to Goa to eat it. 

On that anecdotal note, I come to the end of today's post. Goan cuisine, however, has no end. No end to variety or flavour. To modesty or authenticity. No end to hospitality. To warmth. To love.  And for that we say, ‘Obrigado Goa’. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about yet another wonderful facet along the same line. 

Until then, 

Mog aasu di

(‘Let there be love!’)


I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z

My theme for the challenge is ‘Obrigado, Goa!’, under which I’ll be writing 26 posts on Goa (April 1-30th, excluding Sundays), each post corresponding to the letters of the English alphabet. You can read more about it in my theme reveal post


Rethink Mindful said...

Wow, Goa is indeed rich in culture and now you have added its own cuisines to the list. So many recipes and all of them are wonderful. Goans love fish na? I loved how you have added various types of dishes in your post. - Swarnali

Sonia dogra said...

That plate looks very tempting. We used to be big fans of kokam when we lived in Pune. Then we came up North and just forgot about it. Oh, I'm missing it now.

Ujjwal Mishra said...

Amazing... I am not participating this year, but going to follow some interesting themes. And Goa is surely at the top.

- Ujjwal Mishra mywordsmywisdom.com

Anagha Yatin said...

You got me hungry with those delicious-looking pictures and some familiar names like Sol Kadhi!

Suchita said...

I'm hungry now after reading xacuti - which is my fav type of chicken dish that I make sure I eat when I'm in Goa :)

Unknown said...

Wow Priyanka, totally blown over by the posts so far. Our GOAN culture should never die. Though living abroad , we always enjoy Goan food. Not to forget some delicacies like Rissois de camarao, bebinca, which the kids live🥰

Pri said...

Thanks, Swarnali. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
Yes, we Goans love seafood. Goa being located in the coastal belt wouldn't have it any other way.
But we also love our veggies and the variety in local vegetarian cuisine are is testimony to that.
It's a different thing that tourists in Goa prefer to try only tge seafood here. :)

Pri said...

Thanks, Sonia. Yes, we jn Goa make maximum use of kokum---it finds a way in our sol kadhi, fish curries, and other preparations. :)

Pri said...

Thanks Ujjwal. Your interest in Goa is heartening.
It will be great to have you around! :)

Pri said...

Thanks, Anagha. I'm glad you enjoyed it. That was the intent. :)

Pri said...

I'm glad my post brought back fond memories. :)

Pri said...

Thanks so much, dear. I agree, everything about Goa is precious and should be maintained for posterity.
As for Bibinca, I was saving it for today's post on desserts (which is uo and running now...do check it out.)
But risoisss...irreplaceable! 💖