The Portuguese ruled Goa for 450 years and it is no surprise that the people were heavily influenced by their culture and food. The beauty of Goan cuisine is its influences from across cultures and religions that amalgamate into a unique form of cuisine. Tourists associate Fish curry and rice with this land but there is so much more than that. Of course, fish curry and rice has a heavenly flavour but Goan food, like its land has an exotic unique touch of cross cultures from strong Portuguese influences, to its own people and people who explored the land, conquered part of the land, leaving their “foodprints” behind.
We have compiled a list of our handpicked personal favourites and it would be a shame to leave our beautiful state without having sampled a few of these dishes if not all of them apart from the legendary fish curry and rice with fried fish and papad or papadam. Goan cuisine has a great balance of spicy and non-spicy dishes. There’s something that will whet everyone’s appetite.
There’s no surprise that this amazing dish made it to our list of favourites. A lesser known fact is that this dish originated from Mozambique and found its way into our culture through our Portuguese influence. “Galinha de Cafreal” as it is called is tender chicken legs coated in a cafreal masala and then they are either fried, grilled, or barbecued. Depending on how the dish is prepared it can range from mildly to spicy to very spicy. It is usually not extremely spicy in way of its preparation. The beauty of this masala is that it can be used on fish too or in a curry and it will taste just as good.
The Goan recipe for cafreal includes fresh coriander, garlic, chillis, a dash of olive oil, lime or vinegar. The Portuguese put their own spin on the recipe which was further improvised by the Goans.
This is a signature dish of Goa and everyone who comes here on holiday doesn’t leave without sampling this at least once. The best thing is that this Cafreal masala is available at supermarkets and stores across Goa. If you don’t want to make the masala from scratch you can always buy it off the rack. The preparation of Cafreal masala doesn’t take long and the best part is that it can be stored in the fridge for a later time.
If you have not eaten this then you’re definitely missing out on something. Pleasantly spicy this dish is eaten as a pickle. Balchao originated from Macao which was also a Portuguese colony and it is a form of cooking. Traditional balchao is made from dried prawns but you can use fresh prawns, fish, or pork. It resembles pickling and is eaten without reheating.
The original dish is known as “Balichao”. There is a difference between the Portuguese way of preparations and the Goan way. The Portuguese styled Balchao is tangier than the Goan way. The Goans maintained the tanginess of the dish but added a little spice to it to suit their palate. This dish can be prepared at home but it is also available in stores. There’s nothing more divine than having fresh prawn balchao.
Xacuti (pronounced as Sha-coo-thi) originated in Harmal (now Arambol) in the Pernem Taluka of Goa. The fishing community of Goa prepared a curry using local spices adding either the fresh catch of the day or a local chicken. This is a coconut based curry with white poppy seeds, dried chilies, pepper, fresh chilly, turmeric, onion, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices. It is normally prepared with chicken but one can also use mushrooms, crabs, fish, lamb, or beef. This curry can be mildly spicy or really spicy depending on the preparation of it. Either ways it is delectable.
It is eaten with steamed rice, pulao, or local bread. Another interesting variant of it is “ross” omelette. Chicken xacuti gravy is poured over an omelette and is eaten with local bread. This is a great late night snack.
“Recheado” is the Portuguese word for “stuffed”. Recheado masala is a tangy, spicy masala paste that is used in a lot of seafood preparations. The most common is Mackerel Recheado (Bangde Recheado). This masala is made out of dried chillis, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, vinegar, onion, and jaggery (or sugar).
The masala is then stuffed in the fish and fried, baked, or grilled. This dish can be eaten on its own as a starter or along with curry and rice.
The masala can be used on almost any type of seafood. It can be used as a stuffing or a stir fry and it will taste just as good.
Pork Sorpotel and Sannas
Sorpotel (or as the Portuguese would call it Sarapatel) means “confusion” in reference to the ingredients of this dish. This dish was brought to Goa from Brazil by the Portuguese. The hero of the dish is pork. The dish consists of liver and pork pieces chopped fine. People would also add the heart and intestines along with the blood but that is not common any longer. The beauty of this dish is it can be stored and it only gets better with time.
Sorpotel is usually accompanied with “sanna”, a steamed rice cake that is mildly sweet. This is the Goan variation of “idli”. Sannas originated from the Konkan coast and there are variations of the preparations of it. The Catholic community uses toddy (sap from palm trees) to ferment the sanna mixture. The Goan Hindu community uses urad dal, coconut water, and coconut milk for fermentation. Jaggery is used to sweeten this dish.
This is a traditional dish made for special occasions like feasts, weddings, christenings, and birthdays. You will definitely find this dish in a Catholic home on Christmas or the local village feast day.
Mixed Meat stew
This is a Goan dish that uses all the meat (chicken, beef, pork and chorico). It is usually served during special occasions like weddings, feast days and various other celebrations. The dish on its own is a meal in itself and is extremely filling. The preparation time is long but the end result makes it worth every little bit of effort.
Topping our list of favourite desserts is “Bebinca”. No one knows the exact place of its origin but historians seem to think that it comes from Malaysia where it is known as “binga”. Bebinca is a seven layered pudding. It is also prepared in Portugal, Mozambique, and Macau.
Bebinca is a traditional Christmas sweet but makes its way to the table during all special occasions and feast days. This dessert takes a lot of time to prepare even though the ingredients are not too many.
It is a sweet toffee that mostly prepared for Christmas. It is believed to have originated from Indonesia, and Malaysia. This dish is made from coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour. It is thick and gooey in texture.
Patoleo (Singular patoli) are tumeric leaf cakes made out of rice flour, grated coconut, and jaggery. It is wrapped in turmeric leaves and steamed.
Goan Hindus prepare this sweet dish on the second Sunday of Shravan, Nag Panchami, and Hartalika (the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi).
Goan Catholics prepare this dish on the Feast of the assumption of our lady which is on the 15th of August.
Batika is another sweet dish that is made for Christmas but it is also made all year round. Also known as Bolo de Rulao or Bolo de Batica. It is made from semolina and coconut. It originated in Goa. Bolo means cake in Portuguese.
Serradura originated in Portugal and later became famous in Macau which was under the Portuguese rule. Serradura means “sawdust” in Portuguese. Sawdust refers to the crushed biscuits that forms layers in the dessert. This is a quick and easy dessert to whip up especially if you are pressed for time. It consists of three ingredients, whipping cream, condensed milk, and Marie biscuits though there are lots of variations of it.