Dinner in Goa
Pastéis Recheados (Prawn-Stuffed Puff Pastries)
There is a whole category of foods in Goa that are “recheado” (stuffed) - fish, squid, and often large prawns themselves are stuffed with this quintessentially Goan masala (spice blend). Cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and Kashmiri chillies are blended with fresh garlic and ginger to make up the recheio masala. In this dish, we mix the masala with tender prawns and tangy coconut vinegar, and wrap it in buttery puff pastry to make a savory Goan-style dumpling. The Kashmiri chilli was brought to Goa by Vasco de Gama, and is now the most commonly used chilli in Indian cuisine - its fiery red color actually belies a fairly mild but deeply savory flavor. The origins of puff pastry, though somewhat controversial (Spain or France?!), are most definitely not Indian, and this component of the dish likely traveled to India via Iranian immigrants who popularized it in the cafés of Mumbai. (Contains shellfish, gluten, egg.)
Vindalho de Porco (Pork Vindaloo)
Goan vindalho is a wonderful “nutshell” of food globalization. Carne vinha d’alhos (pork with wine and garlic) is a traditional Portuguese celebratory dish, originating on the island of Madeira. It is the direct precursor to what we know as vindaloo, and that transformation happened in Portuguese Goa. Portuguese sailors often salted and pickled pork to preserve it on long sea voyages; they introduced it - along with chillies, and other spices - to Goa in the 16th century. While chillies dispersed quickly all over India, the tradition of pickled pork stayed mainly in Goa, largely because of Hindu and Muslim prohibitions against eating meat and pork in the rest of India. Prior to Portuguese colonization, there was no wine vinegar in India, so Franciscan priests fermented their own palm wine vinegar (toddy vinegar) in order to make vindalho. Tamarind and toddy vinegar together contribute the slightly sour flavor to this dish; these two ingredients are common in Goan cooking, and are responsible for the “sour” characterization of much Goan cuisine. Vindalho is typically made with pork, though it is also made with chicken, lamb, and paneer. Vindaloo (British spelling) was popularized as Goan vindalho spilled over the borders of Portuguese India into the surrounding British colonies. The dish we have prepared is a traditional Goan preparation, where Anglo-Indian vindaloo (now beloved all over Britain) is generally spicier and lacking the sourness of Goan vindalho. (No gluten, no dairy.)
Arroz Pulao (Goan Pilaf)
As we mentioned on the Zanzibar menu, polow is a dish that originated in Persia in the 4th century and now shows up in cultures all over the world. Pulao first appeared in India in the late Middle Ages, when it was part of the Persian-rooted cuisine of the Muslim rulers. While pulao is not part of every Indian meal, it is a very common dish in Goa, especially when prepared like this - with tomatoes, peas, and mild spices. While our Zanzibari pilau was made with coconut milk, Goan pulao is cooked with chicken stock and vegetables, though the spice combination is similar (as both Zanzibar and Goa were major trading posts on the Spice Routes!). (Contains dairy; no gluten.)
Batata Patal Bhaji (Potato Curry)
This hearty potato curry is often eaten for breakfast in Goa, but can be eaten as a snack all day long, and is especially delicious with the pork vindaloo. Lightly mashed potatoes are mixed with spices, herbs, and green chillies to make a simple yet tasty dish. The spice mixture comprises cumin, mustard seeds, asafoetida, and turmeric. Fresh curry leaves are an important ingredient in Southern Indian cuisine, and are often used with this combination of spices. Curry leaves really have nothing in common with curry powder, and impart a slight nutty flavor to a dish. This vegetarian dish is part of the Hindu Goan tradition. (Contains dairy; no gluten, vegetarian.)
Fugad de Repolho (Cabbage Curry)
This light stir-fried cabbage dish is a very commonly eaten Hindu Goan dish. The seemingly unlikely (but common in Southern India) combination of cabbage, coconut, and chillies is delicious - it’s sweet and spicy and crunchy, and goes well with all the other dishes on the menu. The mustard seeds, asafoetida, chillies, curry leaves, ginger, and garlic are a classic combination of spices in Goan sabzi (vegetable dishes). (No gluten, vegan.)
Anasachi Karam (Pineapple Curry)
A true symphony of typical Goan cooking, fruit curries are the hallmark of a Goan summer. At its most basic, pineapple (or any tart fruit, green mango is also very common) is mixed with sweet coconut, unrefined jaggery sugar, tangy tamarind, warm toasted mustard seeds, and sharpened with a hint of red chili. Although there is some debate as to whether this should be cooked or served raw, the holy trio of ambot, god, and tikat (sour, sweet, pungent) is what defines this dish and Goan cuisine in general. We’ve kept it raw so the sweetness of the pineapple can shine. (No gluten, vegan.)
Bebinca (Layered Coconut Cream Cake)
Bebinca is the most iconic of Goan sweets, and there are quite a few. Goans usually finish a meal with dessert, though sometimes that dessert is simply a few pieces of coconut with a chunk of sweet jaggery (minimally refined cane sugar). Bebinca, though, is a rich and beautiful dessert with alternating layers of coconut cream cake; in this classic version, every other layer includes caramel. There are versions that include potato and sweet potato, though these iterations are usually unlayered. The rice flour iteration that we made for our Dinner in Manila was also unlayered. The original recipe was created by a nun at the Convento da Santa Monica in Old Goa, and she included seven layers to represent the legendary seven hills of Lisbon. (Contains egg, dairy, gluten; vegetarian.)
Grover Zampa Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc - $14
Available at Plum Market
Indian wine is hard to find - we think this is the only one available in Ann Arbor. That’s why we were so surprised, and excited by, Grover Zampa’s sauvignon blanc. The floral notes, accented by grapefruit and tropical fruit aromas pair exceptionally well with the coconut vinegar in the prawn pastries and pork vindalho. While not produced in Goa, Grover’s vineyards in Karnataka and Maharashtra are located in the Indian states surrounding Goa which are better suited for viticulture. Goa itself produces coconut and cashew feni, spirits that have almost a cult-like following and are nearly impossible to find outside of India. Check out this video which shows how traditional feni is made!
By far the smallest Indian state, Goa is called the sunshine state because of the sun-soaked beaches that line its coast along the Arabian Sea. Goa is a part of the Konkan coastal region of India (which includes the coastlines of neighboring Maharashtra and Karnataka) - a region of deep river valleys, long white beaches, islands, rainforests, and the foothills of the Western Ghats mountain range. While the beaches and islands have long been hotspots for tourists and have developed a bit of a reputation for frenetic partying, there is so much more to Goa. The hinterlands of the state feature some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world; quiet villages, lush rice paddies, and whitewashed churches dot the landscape; waterfalls, rivers, and lagoons hide in the valleys; tangled mangroves protect the shoreline; foothills are dotted with ancient peepul and banyan trees; caves with ancient petroglyphs display the earliest evidence of humans in India. The notion of “susegad” is woven through all of this; from the Portuguese “sossegado” (calm or peaceful), the prevailing characteristic of Goan culture is a laid-back, languid, and generally unhurried attitude. This stems partly from centuries of tolerance between the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian residents of the region, and was reinforced by the counterculture travellers and immigrants of the 1960s and 70s.
In 1498, when Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama first landed on the Indian subcontinent, Goa’s accessibility and deep natural harbor had already established it as a major trading hub on the Spice Routes. In 1510, the Portuguese defeated the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijalpur and proceeded to colonize the area immediately surrounding the port city. Portugal ruled the Western Indian ports of Goa, Díu, and Damão (which together made up Portuguese India) for the next 450 years, far outlasting the three centuries of British colonial rule over the rest of India. At the peak of Portuguese exploration and spice trade, Goa was a prospering metropolis unlike any other. Its bazaars were a nexus in the trades of pearls and coral from Bahrain, Chinese porcelain and silk, Portuguese velvets, and spices from the Malay Archipelago. It was called “Goa Dourada” (Golden Goa), and its splendor was so great that there was a Portuguese proverb: “He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon.” Though many of the old mansions have fallen into disrepair, there is abundant evidence of this gilded past, and a new generation of Goans and expats are rehabilitating these buildings as boutique homestays, museums, and restaurants. In 1961, the Indian Army seized Goa from the Portuguese, but 450 years of Portuguese Catholic rule left a lasting mark on Goan music, architecture, lifestyle, and cuisine.
The peripatetic Portuguese can be credited (for better or worse) with changing food cultures all over the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Portuguese influence on food can not be overstated - they brought ingredients and spices to and from Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and India. Many of these ingredients have been so completely integrated into food cultures that they are considered crucial and authentic. As Goa was an actual Portuguese-settled colony, rather than one of its many trading posts (which were not settled), they brought not only ingredients and spices, but also techniques and entire subsets of cuisine, along with music, architecture, and religion. The Portuguese brought tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, cloves, ginger, and cumin - Indian food would not be what it is today without these ingredients. To Goa, they brought the Portuguese recipes that would become Goan sorpotel, feijoada, and vindaloo. Cozinha de Goa (the food of Goa) is the result of centuries of profound globalization.
Goa is mostly Hindu, so there are many vegetarian dishes, but the population is about 25% Catholic, and as Catholicism has no prohibitions against eating meat (as in Hinduism) or pork (as in Islam), Goans eat more meat (in general) than the rest of India. Along the coast, seafood is abundant, especially kingfish, pomfret, and prawns. Goan food is often characterized as spicy and vinegary - both contributions of the Portuguese. The Portuguese also brought the techniques of bread baking and alcohol distilling, both of which are deeply ingrained in Goan food culture.
Whether you go to Goa for the beaches, the clubs, the all night raves, the historic architecture, the hiking, snorkeling, wildlife-viewing, or waterfall-chasing, there is no avoiding the deliciously complex Goan cuisine. We closed last week’s Hawai’i menu with a suggestion that we should all consider embracing a little more “aloha” in our lives; this week, let’s layer that with some susegad. Let’s slow down, maybe spend a few minutes in a hammock if you can (though we cannot recommend eating dinner in a hammock - that’s a recipe for disaster!), and enjoy this meal at a leisurely pace.
Featured Recipe: Bebinca
48 g sugar
2 + 4 tbsp water
500 ml coconut cream
500 g sugar
12 egg yolks
150 g AP Flour, sifted
¾ cup ghee
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp salt
Make the caramel: Add the sugar and 2 tbsp water over medium high heat until it turns to a dark brown. Carefully add the remaining water so it turns liquidy and let cool.
Combine the coconut cream and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating continuously. Add the flour, 1 tbsp ghee, nutmeg powder, salt and mix well into a smooth batter.
Strain the mixture through a sieve into two equal size bowls. Add the caramel into one of the bowls and mix so there’s a light color and a dark color batter.
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan with 2 tbsp ghee. Add 3/4 cup light batter and bake for 15-20 minutes. Spread 1 tbsp ghee over the baked layer and pour a 3/4 cup of dark batter. Bake for 15 minutes.
Continue greasing, layering, and baking until all the mixture is used. Each layer should be baked for 15 minutes. Spread 1 tbsp ghee over the last layer. Remove from the oven and turn upside down when cooled (pop back into the oven to loosen the ghee before trying to unmold if it’s stuck).
Cut into 1 inch squares
Recipes Inspired By:
Husband and wife team behind the acclaimed Goa Portuguesa restaurant in Mumbai, Deepa and Suhas’ Goan cookbook focuses not only on Portuguese-Goan cuisine but also Hindu vegetarian dishes hard to find outside of people’s homes.
An absolutely incredible blog FULL of delicious Goan recipes, one of the best finds this year!
Cherie Hamilton has been chronicling Lusophonic cuisine since the 1960s - her book Cuisine of Portuguese Encounters has fantastic recipes from Brazil, to Angola, to Goa, to Macau!
A must have for Asian food in general; Charmaine Solomon’s encyclopedic knowledge of Indian food is unmatched.
Sonal Ved's masterpiece, this cookbook is an encyclopedia not just for North Indian staples, but for understanding all of the unique specialities from the entire country including Goa!
An incredible video showing how tradition feni is made, and how families and small-batch producers / retailers are keeping the tradition alive
The documentary Last Hippie Standing is a compilation of video footage showing the counterculture of Goa in the 1960s and 70s, and the tension between that culture and conservative Indian culture.
This short video shows the rainforests of inland Goa, the mangroves, and the coastlines away from the more popular tourist destinations.
An excellent history of vindaloo.