Goa’s Flavours Food & Drink of Goa

Every State in India has traditions, stories and ways of life deeply embedded into its culture, most of which are undiscovered and have rarely if ever been a part of our understanding or perception of their communities. Goa, in fact is no different. Often termed as India’s hottest tourist destination, the State is known for its parties by the beach and its water sports, and is eyed by every entrepreneur looking at starting a new business or food and beverage venture. However, although most domestic tourists across the country have visited Goa at some point in their lives, most are unaware of the traditions of the land, as well as the communities that form the true ecosystem of Goa beyond the facade of a party destination.

Goan food is an amalgamation of various cultures, from those of the Indo Portuguese to the Saraswat and Hindus and the natives and tribals. The cuisine spans way beyond the generic fish thali and vindaloos. Our ancestors of the State celebrated fresh and seasonal produce with sustainable practices, which is a concept that has only recently been spoken about in the last 10 years by the global F&B industry.

Our aboriginals of the land, namely the Velips and Gaonkars, have been nourishing themselves for centuries on vegan and gluten free diets, whilst simultaneously caring for and nurturing the land. Their cuisine is full of nutrition and is very healthy, as most of their cooking techniques involve steaming, boiling and stewing without the use of oil. Their food has never required the use of cooking oils, as vegetable and coconut based oils were luxuries that were inaccessible and unheard of. The only form of fat that they have made use of is the ‘Bindel’, which is the compressed seed of the kokum fruit. Being the year of millets, one can look to the cuisine of the aboriginals. Various grains and lentils have also been used abundantly for centuries, such as ‘Gondianche Tizan’ (millet porridge), ‘Torache Godshem’ (toor dal dessert preparation sweetened with jaggery). As these communities have inhabited the forest ecosystem, a variety of tubers have also been incorporated into their cuisine, like ‘chirke’, ‘mooliyo’, ‘konaga’ ‘zaddkonaga’, acting as strong sources of starch and energy.

On the other hand, the Saraswat community incorporates both vegetarian and pescatarian dietary habits, and also believes in the Sattvic method of cooking. The use of ingredients such as kokum, tamarind, teppal or tirphal, coconut, turmeric, various gourds like pumpkins and squashes is abundant. Their cuisine also highlights the variety of seafood Goa has to offer, where each dish is based on the type of fish being used. For example, a bangda (mackerel) is used for an ‘uddemethi’, a curry prominent with the flavor of fenugreek, whereas a prawn would be used for a ‘sungatam hooman’, a mellow coconut gravy flavoured with teppal. Furthermore, for the rainy season, an abundance of dried seafood is used as a form of protein, such as ‘bombilanchem sukem’ (dried Bombay duck preparation) and fish/prawn kismur, a dried form of the fish which is popular amongst most other communities as well.

The Catholic community’s cuisine is heavily influenced by the reign of the Portuguese, as ingredients such as chillies, potatoes and vinegar were brought to Goa by them and are now staples of the diet. Catholic cuisine has a kaleidoscope of meat preparations, ranging from beef, pork, chicken and mutton. From feasts and festivals to homestyle food, the table showcases a vast variety of meat dishes such as ‘beef assado’ (beef roast), ‘pork sorpotel’ (from the Brazilian sarapatel meaning ‘mismatch’) and ‘chicken cafreal’ (a green marinated chicken originating from Mozambique). Unlike the other communities, the Catholics have relished the pairing of alcoholic beverages with their cooking. The concept of cashew feni and coconut toddy distillation, using toddy in dishes such as sannas and poie, and the art of local wine production made using ingredients like jamun and native fruits are all practices the Christians have carried out for years. Furthermore, whilst the Hindus are known for their various vegetable based pickles and ferments, the Catholics are known to have done the same with seafood and meats. These include ‘kingfish molho’, ‘mackerel para’ and ‘prawns balchao’. The cashew nut, being one of Goa’s biggest cash crops, is a popular snack but also used in a variety of savoury and sweet dishes such as ‘dedos de damas’, translating to ‘lady’s fingers’.

Although each community has its unique practices and styles of cooking, they have through the ages intertwined and merged their cultures to become the face of Goa’s cuisine that we know today. The neuri, for example, is a fried dumpling filled with jaggery and coconut, a preparation made for occasions such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Christmas. Similarly, rice pancakes like ‘pode’ and ‘koyloleo’ come from different communities but end up on the same dinner table at times. The infamous pao, once considered impure because of the use of toddy, is now found everywhere from a ross omelette stall to a chouriço pao.

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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