Goan cuisine is an interesting fusion of several cultures – Arab, Portuguese, Brazilian, French, African, Chinese, Malaysian, British, Anglo-Indian and Konkan. The food is marked by intensive marination and cooking with passion, with dishes that have unique flavours, and rare similarities to other cuisines
Goan food has a rich culture and history influenced by 400 years of Portuguese colonialism, the legendary Hindu Lord Parashurama, and modern-day techniques. The Portuguese brought potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, guavas and cashews from Brazil to Goa. Chillies, the most important of Goan spices, was also introduced by the Portuguese, and became immensely popular. Since the State experiences tropical climate, the spices and flavours are intense. Use of kokum is another distinct feature. In this tiny region, East did meet West on the dining table.
Vegetarian (or Hindu) dishes use tamarind and kokum for souring, and jaggery for sweetening, asafoetida, fenugreek, curry leaves, mustard and urad dal. The food is not very spicy; and there is less use of onion and garlic. The dishes comprise vegetables, lentils, pumpkins, gourds, bamboo shoots, roots, etc. The food is not very oily and cooked in coconut oil.
Since the State is now a major tourist destination, visited for its beaches and churches by travellers across the world, its modern-day food has acquired an international appeal.
Cooking and eating a Goan meal
Goan food is derived from the best marinated products. It was earlier cooked in the traditional home style using a chulha, until the arrival of European and American cooking equipment. A chulha is a brick cube with an opening in the front to feed the fire, and an opening on the top to act as a burner that is fueled by charcoal. The chulha construction was quite an art form, requiring careful plastering to provide the right draft to give an even source of heat. Now, mixers and grinders and regular kitchen utensils are used in Goan cooking.
An authentic Goan meal is best enjoyed over a family style serving with all across the table. As Fatima de Silva Gracias the famous author of “The Journey of Goan Food” writes about Afonso de Albuquerque, who conquerored Goa and was responsible for initiating Politica dos Casamentos (mixed marriage policy) between Portuguese men and the local women in Portuguese India. This policy of mixed marriages must have surely influenced the food habits of the mixed race. Similarly, the commercial treaty (Anglo-Portuguese Treaty) of 1878 with British India brought new elements into the diet, which are seen in the food eaten by Goan Christians, such as beef and pork.
Goanese dishes are derived from the readily available resources. The Goan fertile soil brings in a host of vegetables and, needless to say, fresh seafood. The weather and culture have influenced the cuisine from dishes like Fish Para, which is dried fish soaked in spices throughout the rainy season in almost every Goan home. Other popular dishes are Vindaloo, Blachao, Xacuti, Peri Peri, Khatkhate with Hittu, etc. Main ingredients include fresh seafood, meat, locally grown vegetables, coconut, Goan spices or condiments like kokam which is typically found in Goa.
The cuisine is largely seafood-based; the staple foods are rice and fish like Kingfish, pomfret, shark, tuna and mackerel. Among the shellfish are crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, lobster, squid and mussels.