Goa is a beautiful coastal state located on India’s western coast, surrounded by the State of Maharashtra to the North, and the State of Karnataka to the South. A former Portuguese colony for 450 years, Goa still retains remnants of its colonial past in the form of incredible ancestral homes & buildings. And, for us foodies, in its delicious Goan cooking.
Goan cuisine is an experience in itself, especially for seafood lovers. The main Goan seafood dish is fish curry and rice. Cooked in rich spices of Portuguese flavor, vinegar, chilies, and coconut milk, it is the staple diet. We’re huge fans of Indian cuisine, and have to say of all the fish curries we’ve tried thus far, the Goan fish curries are the best we’ve tasted!
But, if you’re not a fan of seafood, don’t worry, because Goans love chicken and pork just as much, and prepare them in a variety of dishes such as the ever-famous vindaloo, xacuti, chorizo, and sorpotel. Us Hawaiians love pork, but the way we prepare it is much less spiced. It’s always interesting to learn new cooking methods from different cultures of meats we’re familiar with.
Dessert lovers will enjoy tasting the unique Goan sweets, made mainly with coconut, found in abundance throughout the state.
Here’s a few dishes that come highly recommend from locals to try during your visit to Goa.
I tasted fish caldine for the first time when we used to live in Dubai and was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Let me tell you, it was one of the tastiest curries I’ve eaten. Indian food can often be very spicy, which doesn’t always suit our palates. Don’t get me wrong, I like me some spice, but I also like to be able to eat without my feeling like my mouth’s on fire! That’s why the caldine curry is perfect, especially for the lil kid-foodies – it’s non spicy, yet extremely flavorful and creamy thanks to the coconut milk. In Goa, restaurants will usually let you choose what fish you want in the curry depending on the time of year, but always go for a fleshy fish, or if you prefer, prawns.
A dish of Portuguese origin, sorpotel is made with pork that’s diced and parboiled, and added to a spicy, vinegary curry.
Sorpotel is commonly served at birthday parties or family gatherings. It’s best eaten with sanna, which is a traditional steamed rice cake. In my mind, it is the quintessential Goan dish, and having it homemade is the way to go. When in Goa, there are a couple of places, such as Bhatti Village, where you can go to a Goan’s house and they’ll cook you a traditional meal – ask them to serve up some sorpotel. It doesn’t get more authentic Goan than that.
Goans have adapted the Portuguese sausage, linguiça, to make the ever-popular peppery Goan sausage or chouriço. They are best eaten with rice as a sausage pulao, or as a snack on some Goan-style bread known as pao. You’ll find them still made in many Goan homes, or on display at the popular weekly markets.
When it comes to food, we have a soft spot for desserts. No trip to Goa is complete without sampling their varied desserts. They’re unlike any thing you’ve tasted in India, in part due to the strong Portuguese influence. Bebinca is a layered Goan cake with a pudding-like texture. If you love coconut, this is the dessert for you, because it’s made from coconut milk, spices, egg yolks & flour. Given it’s popularity, you’ll now find pre-packaged versions of it at grocery stores, such as the one by Costaz. It’s also quite simple to recreate – the kid-foodies and I might just have to try!
Now, here’s a unique Goan dessert. Made out of chana dal (lentils), I find these triangular chana doces (pronounced dosh) to taste just like fudge. The addition of coconut makes them creamy, and nutty, while not overpoweringly sweet. Traditionally made in households during Christmas, you’ll now find them commercially sold and available throughout the year. Which is perfect for tourists that don’t visit during Christmas!
There are many reasons to visit Goa, and for most of the two million annual visitors, it’s a combination of the world-famous sandy beaches, Goan cuisine, and the happy-go-lucky (susegad, as the Goans call it) lifestyle. For us, a trip to Goa means trying some of the best Goan food we can find, whether it’s in our friend’s homes or at neighborhood restaurants.
If you’ve been to Goa, what are some of your favorite kid-friendly dishes to try, that haven’t made our list? Let us know in the comments!