If you were building a list of great places in the world for food, then Goa would have to make it into your top 10. Situated on the west coast of India, and famed for its palm-lined beaches, Goa has been a crossroads for many different cultures dating back for millennia. The Sumerians, Dravidians and Portuguese have all come to Goa over the centuries, with the result that its cuisine is an eclectic mixture of Asian and European influences.
One of the things that Goa is most famed for is its seafood, which is both tasty and economical. As with most Goan dishes, seafood is usually served hotly spiced, making it a perfect combination of delicate flesh and fiery extravagance. The fish curry is particularly delicious, made with the local pomfret, which is similar in texture to haddock or turbot. The curry is traditionally hot and sour, with the heat mellowed by the addition of copious coconut. As well as fish, these curries are often made with the local shrimp, which are large and juicy. Another common way of preparing fish in Goa is frying it – the fish is first coated in a deep layer of hot spices and then cooked in sizzling oil.
Pork is also a staple Goan food, and gained popularity during the time the Portuguese ruled from the 1600s until as recently as 1961. Perhaps the best-known pork dish from Goa is vindaloo, the name of which actually comes from the Portuguese “carne de vinha d’alhos,” which means meat with wine and garlic. In Goa, the wine was replaced with palm vinegar, and additional spices were added to create the fiery dish. Interestingly, when you have a vindaloo in the West, it often contains potatoes, but this is not how the dish was meant to be made. In fact, the reason that potatoes are included is that aloo in Hindi means potato – and so they were mistakenly added.
Another pork dish that is often eaten in Goa is sorpotel – although it is sometimes made with lamb or beef. Here, the pork is first lightly boiled, and then is cut into cubes. The cube meat is then cooked in a spicy, vinegary sauce. It is often served along with sanna, a type of spongy rice cake that is steamed and has a slightly sweet flavor.
If you really want to feel the fire coming out of your nostrils, then try cafreal. This is a very dry dish that is made with chicken. The bird is first marinated with chilies, garlic and ginger, and then is fried in a pan. It is truly delicious, but unless you are used to very hot food, you may find it quite painful.
Finally – and you will have to travel to Goa to get this – try the feni. This is a fermented drink that is made from coconut or from cashew apples. The color ranges from clear to light golden, and it can be sipped straight or used as a mixer in a cocktail. Be warned, however – feni tastes quite mild, but it really can put you under the table if you have too much.