Goa, land of sun, sand and sea!

So recently I’ve been to Goa for the first time and it was a much needed getaway from the depressing lockdown situation thanks to COVID-19. I never planned to write this sort of blog when I started out as a freelancer but neither did I ever thought of being a freelancer in the first place. The trip wasn’t mainly about food but this blog is and I have tried my best to describe the food in a very brief and simple way. I haven’t written about all the dishes that we had there but to keep it succinct, I have only chronologically recorded the ones which I have tried for the first time or the ones which were unique and interesting.


Baga beach

Prawn Biryani with Prawn Spring Rolls.

This was the second dish that I was just dying to dig my spoon in for so long! Although I can get prawns and all sorts of sea food in the capital region of India, but it is just not as fresh and peculiarly prepared as it is at the shores. The term ‘biryani’ is open for interpretation and in my opinion biryani is a complete meal being stronger on the spices, guess the Goans agree with me on this too! We had this at a shack at a beach shack for dinner. The rice wasn’t basmati but it doesn’t need to be, major flavor contributors were mild red chili, cinnamon, and cloves resulting in the dish not being ‘hot’ spicy but rather mild and loaded with fragrances of whole spices and prawn meat. The prawn spring rolls were nothing extraordinary and if you’ve eaten prawns before then there were no surprises here.


Siolim

Patal Bhaji or Patel Bhaji

This is of the breakfasts we had at Navtara resturant which was near our accommodation in Siolim, seem to me as an adaptation of Chholey Bhature as the gravy had white peas the puris were almost as big as a bhatura. The gravy was a bit spicy and gave a strong hint of coriander and curry leaves.


Faluda

I had this faluda with patal bhaji and it was ‘different’ from the one I have in north. It wasn’t as sweet and had some kiwi seeds on top, which gave it an interesting mouthfeel.


Ponda

Goan Food Buffet

I was fortunate to have this experience at Sahakari spice plantation, the food was ethnic and simple. I apologize for not being too descriptive as I couldn’t have a proper conversation with the staff there due to language barrier but some dishes I could identify were fried fish, narali bhat, rice pulao and yellow dal, chicken curry, popadoms, and, pickles. The fish was coated with semolina and shallow fried while the narali bhat was sweet in taste and had dry fruits and coconut. Rest of the items were good but nothing special.


Siolim

Mussels

We had this at the very famous Greek restaurant, Thalassa, This was the first time eating mussels for me and I actually liked them. The taste is often compared to prolonged chewed chewing gum which can be useful for a vegetarian to get some idea from but I found it to have a bland, mild oceanic taste and its texture to be chewy, very similar to a mushroom. I have to make a confession, we forgot to click a picture before eating and when I realized it, I just flipped the empty shells and took one :D.


Prawn Pizza

As you can now probably see, I have a fondness for prawns and hence, a prawn pizza was ordered. The topping was not spicy or tangy but was somewhere in between with perfectly done prawns in good quantity. All over flavor was mild and cheesy while the base wasn't too crisp to shred your mouth.


Siolim

A quick bite before we head on to our adventure for the day! There are very noticeable differences in the methods of preparation of this snack, specially when compared to the northern version, first being how much less oily it was and second was the style in which the potato filling was prepared; the oil used for frying was probably coconut oil and the filling had mustard seeds and curry leaves. All over vada (the brown oval thing) was much less greasy, spicy and ‘heavy’ but was less crunchy which may not necessarily be a downside. To be honest, I thought it was mistake to have this for breakfast but I was wrong as it didn’t make feel drowsy or beyond satiated.


Assagao

French Press Coffee

This was hands down one of the best cafes I’ve visited; the location, ambiance and staff’s friendly nature worked in complete harmony with the food to emit very pleasant and relaxing vibes. Oh! and they also gave us immunity boosting herbal shots on the house. There were two reasons I wanted to try this out, first because it was a café (duh!) and second I wanted to see if it was a real deal or just a gimmick, which I am glad to report, wasn’t. I am no coffee connoisseur and mostly drink cheap instant coffees, but I could experience a very smooth and aromatic flavor which wasn’t sharp and as bitter as the instant coffees I am used to. I didn’t add anything to the coffee because I like them black.


Banana Walnut Muffin

The muffin was soft but not crumbly and as you take a bite you can smell the amalgam of walnuts and bananas which highlight their coarse presence in your morsel. I can't be more detailed than this as I could only steal one bite from my friend's plate before he snatched it away :(


Croissant

It had been a while since I had a croissant and the ambiance made me crave for one. The cheap stuff is usually chewy, brittle and leaves a greasy coating in the mouth; now I’ve never had an ethnic French croissant so I can’t say this one was perfect but it was definitely good, it was soft and melted in my mouth and I could tell that they didn’t skimp on butter or used cheap alternatives. Even the butter accompanying it was served at a spreadable temperature. Clearly the baker is skilled and altruistic.


Candolim

Lemon n Pepper Calamari Batter Fry

We ordered this at the Fisherman's Cove and as it was my first time trying a squid, I thought this preparation shall be a good bridge for other sophisticated calamari dishes. Obviously, the subtle squid flavors were masked but I could sense a very mild nutty taste surprisingly absent of the oceanic element, the mouthfeel was chewy.


Crab Xacuti

A very famous dish in Goa, which was my friend’s recommendation followed by a warning that it was gonna get messy as if that could stop me! This was a very unique experience for me and I actually asked the waiter how to eat it and he gladly guided me through. The crabmeat was sweet and very tender and had absorbed the spicy flavors of the xacuti curry which was quite spicy I must say but wasn’t overwhelmingly hot.


Fort Tiracol

Virgin Mary

This one of the hidden gems in Goa and is a top recommendation for anyone looking for a mixture of scenic beauty, amazing food, peace and a little bit of history. The tomatoes in the drink strongly manifest themselves in the first sip but not in a tangy way. I mean you can clearly taste the tomatoes but not their sharpness. The proportions of Worcestershire sauce and tomato juice were well balanced.


Fillet of Fish baked with Baby Potato and Peppers, cooked in Olive Oil and Herbs and topped with Pesto.

This dish caught my eye on the menu and I became curious about the resulting flavor the combination of fish and tomatoes with pesto. Again, I am no expert but I believe that it was a fairly complicated dish and could be a mantel of chef’s skill (not that I was there to judge them). The fish was fresh and very tender, cherry tomatoes were used for the main body and the topping of pesto sauce was interesting. Everything was in the right place and in the right amount, if eaten whole, every ingredient played its role in harmony to create a fresh, herbal and umami profile.


Kerla Style Crisp Prawns

This style of prawns had a bit more coriander and peppery inclination and seemed to be fried for longer duration but not long enough to make them soak excessive oil. The prawns were light, crisp and paired well with the mayonnaise.


Tiracol Fort Delight (Virgin colada with Grenadine syrup)

I didn’t order this drink but took a sip from my friend’s and I felt guilty not to get one for myself, it’s not like I didn’t like my Mary but I just couldn’t get Delight out of my head and all I could think of was to get another sip while being envious of my friend! I was in a complicated situation, I accepted the reality that I can’t have them both at the same time and I needed to end things with Mary and move on to Delight or I'll enjoy neither and live in this constant pull. Lol! But seriously it was very good and refreshing without being too sweet or citrusy.


Chicken Boti Kebab with Couscous

I know, the amount seems a bit disappointing but the taste wasn’t. The chicken seemed to be marinated well and was very tender although I have had better. The couscous was good too but the combination, being a bit unorthodox, failed to mingle well in my opinion.


Spaghetti with ‘Tiracol’ clams “a la Vongule”, with White Wine and Cherry Tomatoes.

I will divide this dish into two parts, first being the spaghetti and secondly the clams. The spaghetti had a mild and rounded flavor with a very slight tangy note standing out, promoted by the reduced wine while the clams were similar to mussels but were a bit more chewy.


Chocolate Molten Cake with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce.

My mouth is profusely watering while writing this because it was just so delicious! The lava cake was very soft unlike the stuff you get at mass producing fast food chains and the chocolate syrup used wasn’t a sugar loaded concoction, I could taste chocolate more than sucrose; the ice-cream was vanilla flavor and wasn’t anything extraordinary but was served at the perfect temperature without being too cold or frozen.


Calangute beach

Goan Fish Curry!!

Remember when I said Prawn biryani was second on priority list? This dish was the first! I just didn’t want to ‘taste’ it but I actually wanted to enjoy it in a proper manner it deserved. I rode my bike to Calangute beach at midnight, picked a shack table nearest to the beach and away from the party noise. A young waiter came along and asked for my order to which I simply said “just bring me a Goan fish curry”, the boy confirmed if I wanted ‘Goan’ fish curry or just plain fish curry while trying to hand me the menu and without being bothered I smiled and said “brother, what’s the point of having plain fish curry in Goa?” the waiter chuckled and came back with a piping hot bowl of the curry and some rice. The dish lacked all sophistication, the fish was cut into big uneven chunks, the onion, tomatoes and spices were coarse while the rice wasn’t top quality. But that was exactly what I expected because the complexities would have been counter intuitive, this dish isn’t supposed to be refined to perfection or has to follow a precise recipe, all it has to be is… Goan! easy going, simple, warm and fulfilling which it was. The fish chunks were void of any bones and even though it was well cooked it retained its oceanic aroma which proved its freshness. The curry had strong notes of tanginess and spiciness from tomatoes and whole red chilies and while not being too watery.


Siolim

Samosa Pav

This was our last meal in Goa. The samosas did fit the definition but were so different from the ones I have here in the North. The outer crust was interestingly thin and less oily as compared while the inner filling was same as one in the vada pav we had the other day.


The Wind-up

Goan cuisine seems to be a melting pot of 3 main ingredients, fresh seafood, local spices and past influence of the Portuguese culture. The flavors are accentuated by the great atmosphere and fresh ingredients, easily available in the region. If you are planning to visit Goa, then I recommend you give Kefi café and Fort Tiracol a visit, not just for the food but also for the ambiance (DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid to say this). But if you are a bit flexible and open to try new flavors, food in Goa wont disappoint you even at a roadside tea stall. I apologize for low quality of images I have uploaded but this the best I could manage with my Nokia 8.1’s camera and I don’t own a DSLR.. yet. I hope you liked this blog and if you did then let me if you want to see more of these and I’ll gladly let you in on my future encounters!

Me with my partner in crime, Royal Enfield Bullet 350 nicknamed 'Lairai' at fort Aguada.