As Goa gears up to embrace the festive season, chef Selester Fernandes talks about some signature dishes from the region that are must-tries
Come December, Goa will don its brightest colours for the season of celebrations – first for the Feast of St Francis Xavier (December 3) and then Christmas (December 25), followed by New Year! Every celebration in the region is accompanied by delectable food, and while Goa’s food culture has been influenced by world cuisine over the years, it boasts some signature dishes that might not be too well known but are absolutely unmissable. Here are five you must try on your next visit.
Prepared with a medley of whole spices such as red chillies, red and green cardamom, cloves, pepper, star anise, coriander seeds and cumin, chicken xacuti is one of Goa’s mostloved dishes. The spices are roasted and churned into a paste, and cooked with sautéed onions, curry leaves and chicken pieces. This gravy-based dish comes from Goa’s coastal areas and is best had with Goan rice (local brown rice).
Even though seafood and other nonvegetarian dishes take up the lion’s share in Goan cuisine, the veg caldine stands out as a humble yet delectable vegetarian dish. In this delicacy, vegetables and fruits such as potato, sweet potato, carrot and raw banana are cooked in Goan coconut sauce. The sauce includes fresh coriander leaves, chana dal, cumin, tamarind, turmeric, dry coriander seeds and peppercorns. This curry-based dish is consumed with rice and comes from the hilly regions of Goa.
This dish is Goa’s pride and joy, and is a must-have during any season. The main ingredient is the spice paste used to marinate the pomfret. Red chillies, tamarind, sugar, rock salt, black and green cardamom, cumin, roasted garlic and onions are soaked in Goan toddy vinegar for an entire week before being turned into a paste. After being marinated in the latter, the fish is fried and served hot.
Goa is not just a land of sumptuous savoury and spicy dishes but also boasts its own local variety of desserts. Made with flour, fresh coconut milk and jaggery, the dodol is a much-loved Goan sweet treat. A mixture of the three ingredients is cooked till it is reduced to a jelly-like form – a process that takes nearly half a day.
A traditional seven-layered cake, the bebinca is one of the most popular desserts in Goa. It is prepared with eggs, flour, ghee and sugar, and is baked one layer at a time – after the first layer is cooked, the batter for the second layer is added, followed by the third layer, and so on.
Every city in India has its signature street food and in Goa, it is the ros omelette – made with masala fried eggs and spicy chicken gravy, and garnished with chopped onions and coriander leaves with a dash of lemon juice. It is served with Goan pao bread.
The author is a chef specialising in Goan cuisine at Goa Marriott Resort and Spa, and the views expressed in this article are his own