“Is there so much to Goan food that I’ve been clueless about all these years?” was the main thought on my mind through the week.
When I was prompted to cover Goa as part of Talking Street, I had no clue about what was to come. It started with reaching out to all my Goan friends, who responded with, I learnt through my stay in Goa, what was the usual Goan warmth and willingness to extend all sorts of help, right from planning, accommodation, lists of local favourites and constant help and advice. This inviting and welcoming attitude is a part of Goan culture, and I wondered how I had missed it in all these years of visiting this blessed state. This was a trip with a mission. A search for the most popular, authentic, long-standing local eateries that most visitors wouldn’t know about. A search for local dishes and delicacies that formed part of everyday Goan cuisine, that again, most visitors wouldn’t know about. And that made all the difference. So almost as soon as I reached, I started seeking out the outlets that I would be covering. I had a starting point and a set of lists from friends. The rest of the trip snowballed from that – one interesting eatery after another. Every food outlet I reached, I could be sure of being received with a smile and an open attitude. Owners and foodies shared their stories – how they started the place, what were the challenges and how they love what they do. Humbling and inspiring, their stories exposed the many facets of life in Goa. Strong faith in God, a belief in being good to all, giving generously, living a good life over one filled with stress over money, working hard and spending quality time with family and friends – this is what I learnt. All of it makes for another post, because this one is dedicated to the super-interesting food gems that I discovered in my search. So let's get started.
Let's start with Xacuti. Pronounced as shacuti, Xacuti is clearly the most popular Goan food. I would go so far as to call Chicken Xacuti their comfort food. It is available at every corner shop and is usually served with poey, a type of local bread. Variants include Prawn / Oyster / Crab / Shark Xacuti. For the vegetarians, there’s Mushroom Xacuti, though it is available in select joints only.
Ras Omelet. Freshly made omelets served with Chicken Xacuti and poey, a local Goan bread that is slightly stiff on the outside and soft inside. In some joints, they slice the poey open, neatly stuff the omelet inside and then pour the Xacuti gravy into the bread, before lightly grilling it on a pan. Now imagine biting into one. Bliss!
Beef Croquettes and Chops. Most bakeries, (and there are many unique, old bakeries across the state), have a variety of croquettes and chops with different fillings. All bans aside, the beef croquette is a clear favourite among the locals. Fish chops and prawn chops are also popular. No veg versions here.
Cutlet Bread or Cutlet Pav. Pork, Beef or Chicken cutlets packed inside a goan bread, sprinkled with a generous helping of salad and covered in a spicy, tangy sauce. Cutlet bread is available across the state at outlets that have been feeding happy customers for 20+ years. Perfect for an evening snack, many Goans stop by at a cutlet pav stall on their way back home. These joints also serve Pork Stew, Sorpotel, Beef Roast and other Goan dishes.
Chorez Pav. Goan Pork Sausages (a pickled version that is very native) served stuffed inside Goan poey bread.
Patal Bhaji. A flavourful, spicy curry made using white peas, this is a typical Goan breakfast, when it is coupled with pav. Available at most eateries that are open for breakfast. What could be more satisfying than a plate of freshly prepared bhaji with hot puris.
Prawn Rissois. A Portuguese recipe in which prawns are cooked in a white, cheesy sauce and then stuffed inside flour pockets which are rolled in breadcrumbs, before being deep fried. The result is a can’t-stop-at-one Prawn Rissois.
And finally. Goan Sweets – Boll, Dodol, Dosh, Bebinka. All these unique sweets have different forms of coconut in common but are otherwise very different in their ingredients, preparation and taste. Boll is a hard, large cookie-like sweet. Dodol is soft, pudding-like dessert made using flour or ragi and palm jaggery. Dosh is a little like a coconut barfi, soft and melt-in-your-mouth. Bebinka is the most popular Goan dessert, a layered cake, traditionally baked in a stone oven, made using flour, egg yolks and coconut milk. And each of them is a must-try, even if you're not a huge coconut sweet fan, like I'm not.
The other must-have food while in Goa are the Goan fish curry rice (Ritz Classic), Chicken Shawarma (available at a few places but we have our recommendations), Carrot Cake and any of the many variants of patties – veg, mushroom, chicken, prawn.
For more Goa food and culture stories, check the Goa collection or scroll through these interesting insights: Different local Goan eateries that must be on every travelers must-do list There's a lot more to Goa than meets the eyes When in Goa, eat what the locals eat - Xacuti Best of Goan bakeries