Get to know your Goan Food
We love the food of Goa (so much so we added a new Goan dish to our menu!). We wanted to give you a little more insight (and we’re only scratching the surface here!) into some key features of Goan cuisine, and give you some ideas of how to incorporate some Goan flavours into your meals this month.
Goa is a small state in the South west of India, right by the sea. Because of this proximity to water, seafood is a staple ingredient used in Goan cuisine. King fish is a popular choice, but other fish used include pomfret, giant tiger prawns, shark, tuna and mackerel. Fish is often prepared with a sauce or fried. For our Goan Green, try using mackerel - take the whole (gutted) fish and then cut down across the width, through the spine, to make chunky fish steaks before cooking them in the sauce.
Due to Christian settlers in Goa, pork and beef have become staples within the cuisine. Pork especially is a favourite for the classic Vindaloo or Sorpatel (a tangy, spicy dish with pork and offal). We really like using pork belly or shoulder, as the flavours really sing when you let it cook nice and slowly. Beef is often marinated before being roasted, or fried with spices, onion and tomato, creating a dry, punchy dish. You will also find varieties of Goan sausages - think a sort of chorizo with Indian spices and vinegar, yummy!
The tropical climate means an abundance of coconut trees and the Goans make sure that every part of the coconut is used. Coconut oil is used for cooking, health and beauty, whilst the milk and grated coconut flesh are used in many different dishes from fish curries to desserts, like Bebinca (a layered pudding made with flour, eggs, coconut milk, sugar and spices). The sap from the coconut palm is also fermented to make coconut toddy vinegar or distilled to make Feni, a highly alcoholic spirit (43 -45% abv!), which is most often drunk neat.
The toddy vinegar made from the coconut sap is often used to bring a tang to both meat and fish dishes. Toddy vinegar is not always easy to find, so, for dishes like the Vindaloo and Xacutti, try using cider vinegar instead (especially if you’re using pork!). Another commonly used souring agent is Kokum, a dried fruit which is usually soaked in water and added whole to the dish. Kokum adds a unique sweet and sour taste as well as a deep pinky, purple colour. It's a great addition for vegetables dishes and dhals (try adding some to your Tarka Dhal, after the lentils are cooked). If you can’t get hold of Kokum, Tamarind is a good substitute.
‘Upkari’ is a common way to prepare vegetables in Goa. It's a simple dry stir fry with spices, chilli and salt. We love it with Broccoli but you could easily substitute this for other veg like cabbage, green beans, boiled potatoes or cauliflower.
During celebrations and festivals, another popular dish is Khatkhate. This is a vegetable stew with coconut, lentils and spices. Vegetables which are often found in this stew are drumsticks, pumpkin, radish, carrots and potato.
Whilst the spice combinations and ingredients will vary, most Goan pickles use of lots of garlic, ginger, chilli and, of course, vinegar. These pickles pack a punch, both in flavour and heat. Popular Goan pickles include:
- Tendli Pickle - This is pickle made using tendli, which are sort of like little cucumbers (sometimes known as Gentleman’s Toes).
- Balachao - A meaty and very savoury pickle made from prawns or shrimp. Click here to try our recipe.
- Brinjal Pickle - Another very savoury tasting pickle, this time using aubergine. Click here to try our recipe.
Goa also has a wider variety of breads available than other areas of Indian, due to Portugese influence. Some include:
- Pao - A soft chewy square roll (there is also Katriche Pao, where the dough rolls are cut open with scissors before baking).
- Undo - A crispy round bread roll.
- Poie- A crispy pocket made with whole wheat flour.
- Kankna - A crusty ring of bread, named because they look like bangles. So feel no shame the next time you reach for a white bap to mop up your Xacutti!