Goa’s culinary scene holds more than the divine promise of platefuls of the freshest catch from the sea. Sure, get your fill of fish-curry-rice from roadside eateries and local brews in buzzing little tavernas, but also stop by a grocery store to stock up on the state’s best souvenirs—of the edible kind.
Loaded with egg yolks, coconut milk, and sugar, it’s easy to identify this decadent Portuguese-inspired dessert because of its layers. A bebinca can have from seven to 17 (or more) layers—depending on the time and ingredients at hand. Because it’s baked a layer at a time, it can take up to eight hours to make. While the basic ingredients stay the same, there are slight variations in flavour across Goa. Simonia’s bakery in Porvorim makes great bebinca and a block costs around ₹150.
This potent local brew comes with a pungent aroma and its very own Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Feni is distilled from either coconut or cashew. Though cashew was introduced to the region by the Portuguese from its colonies in Brazil, feni is distinctly Goan. The 90-proof liquor is best consumed on the rocks or with soda, with a dash of lime and salt. Prices vary by brand and can go as low as ₹65 a litre; Cazulo at ₹450 for 750 ml is a good premium option.
Reminiscent of rosaries, Goan chorizo are plump beads of spicy pork strung together in a chain. Chorizo-pao (hot buns stuffed with the pungent sausage) disappears from local bakery counters quicker than you can say “Hail Mary.” A hearty Sunday lunch in a typical Goan home often comprises chorizo cooked with hunks of potato and onion, and served with pao or pulao. It is best to buy them from the local women at Mapusa, Madgaon, or Panjim markets. Prices vary, starting at ₹150 for 200 gm.
The poders or breadmakers of Goa sell their freshly baked bread from giant baskets attached to their bicycles. There’s a lot to choose from—the scissor-like katreancho-pao, the bangle-shaped kankonn, and my favourite, the flat and thick bran poyie. Stock up on about a dozen of these and store them in a freezer back home. Pop a few in the microwave for a short warm-up, and your quiet morning with coffee and fried eggs may as well be in Goa. Prices start from ₹2 per pao.
Derived from the dried peels of seasonal fruits like kokum or mango, solam (pronounced sola) packs a tart punch. The fruit peels are soaked in the fruit’s juice, salted, and dried in the sun. Solkadi, a cooling drink served at the end of Malvani meals combines kokum solam with coconut milk, green chillies, salt, and mustard seeds. In Goa, mango solam adds a distinct flavour to fish curries. Available at neighbourhood grocers for around ₹30 per 100 gm.
The star ingredient of the Goan-style stuffed fried mackerel is recheado masala. Recheio translates to filling in both Portuguese and Konkani, and the fish is slathered with the bright red spice mix before frying. The masala is a finely ground paste of dried chillies, garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and sugar with a generous splash of vinegar. While locals swear by their homemade masala, Karma’s is a good brand to look out for. A 200 gm packet costs ₹65.
Appeared in the July 2016 issue as “Gifts from the Goan Corner”.
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.