Goan food is the tasteful amalgamation of Portuguese cuisine and coastal Indian recipes, which give it a unique flavor profile that is hard to replicate. Locals use fresh seafood, various meats, and a range of vegetables and fruits to create finger-licking good curries and preparations that never fail to excite the taste buds, leaving food lovers with memorable gastronomic experiences.
The quintessential curry to have in Goa is also one of its most rustic. The vindaloo gets its name from the Portuguese “vinha d’alhos” meaning meat cooked in vinegar and garlic. Pork vindaloo is the most common form of the curry you will find in Goa.
A vindaloo tends to be very spicy, so better be prepared for it with a glass of water or chilled beer by your side. Moreover, potatoes are a common addition to the vindaloo, and many believe that the dish gets its name from there, since “aloo” is potato in Hindi. A special foodie delight, pork vindaloo, is the kind of fiery start that will make you want to explore more of Goa’s diverse food culture.
A staple at most Goan houses, if you ever get the opportunity to have homemade Goan fish curry, do not miss out on it. While every home has its own cooking method, the curry remains a robust and aromatic dish that is a must-eat when in Goa.
Made using pomfret or kingfish marinated in turmeric, the curry formula includes raw mangoes that add tanginess, Malabar tamarind that gives it a hint of smokiness, onions, coconut, red and green chilies, and plenty of spices. Once ready, the fish curry best goes with Goan red rice, unpolished with a reddish tinge, it has a firm texture that soaks up more of the curry.
Another favourite Goan curry is the xacuti. While the Portuguese counterpart of the dish tends to be dark bråown in color, in Goa is has a slightly lighter shade, almost reddish at times.
The Goan xacuti is more of a dry curry with pork and chicken being the two main types of meat typically used. However, crab xacuti is slowly becoming popular these days. The curry’s preparation includes grated and fried coconut, poppy seeds – an essential ingredient, onions, chilies, star anise, black pepper, cinnamon, and various spices. You’ll find some form on xacuti in most restaurants and can also buy a xacuti masala to take home to make your own Goan dish whenever you like. When ordering xacuti in Goa, pair it with the local bread, poee.
The Portuguese chorizo, or rather the Goan chorizo, which tends to add feni in its preparation, is a comfort ingredient you will find in several local recipes. From salads and curries to accompanying everyday breakfast eggs, its spiciness is much-loved by gourmands.
The chorizo pao, though, is a popularå street snack that you will find across Goa, sold from makeshift food stalls as well as seen in beachside shacks. Simple in its construction, the chorizo is fried with some chopped onions and potatoes before being served inside a soft, buttered pao bun. Delicious to its core, street food doesn’t get any better than this in Goa.
Saving the best for the last, having the fish thali is an absolute must for any seafood enthusiast visiting Goa. Fair warning, though, you will find many restaurants claiming to have the best fish thali in Goa, and while all of them are great, you have to decide which one you like the most by trying them all, or at least a few. You can also ask the locals for some hidden gems that serve an excellent fish thali in your neighborhood.
A fish thali usually has boiled rice, a nice and spicy vegetable curry, sukhem – a dry coconut and clam recipe, and sol kadi – coconut and kokum bright purple drink to cool you down. The pièce de résistance is, of course, the fried fish, typically a kingfish, but you can also find pomfrets, mackerel, and Asian sole. As expected, the thali, very much like Goan cuisine, is a combination of multiple flavors and textures and guarantees a smile on your face, the result of a satisfying, tummy-filling meal.