The cuisine of Goa has an interesting mix of influences from all the cultures that it came into contact with. There are two separate traditions in cuisine influenced by the respective religions of Hinduism and Christianity; there are some meeting points that present interesting harmony. One of the most popular dishes, the pork Vindaloo is a result of this beautiful harmony. The Portuguese cooking has a strong and telling influence on Goan Cuisine and that should not be forgotten. Goan food is simple but one has to bear in mind that most, though not all, of it is chili hot, spicy, and pungent.
INFLUENCES IN CUISINE
Over hundred-kilometer long coastline along the Arabian Sea Goa influences the culture and lifestyle of the people in a big way. It is not to say that food is also a part of this influence. A typical Goan would prefer seafood to all other meats and would use a lot of coconut for cooking. Being on the Konkan coast means that the Goan cuisine shares the spices grown in the region with the other states on the coast like Maharashtra and Kerala. It has also drawn a lot from the various communities that inhabited it at various times.
The Hindu and the Christian communities of Goa have their own specialties. There are other divisions like the Brahmin and non-Brahmin, both Hindu and Christian, which all offer culinary variations to the originals. Some of the lesser-known but equally important influences on the Goan cuisine are the Kashmiri, Muslim and Portuguese and African, apart from the tribals who lived in the dense, rain-drenched forests of ancient Goa.
Rice, fish, and coconut are the basic components of the typical Goan food platter. Delicacies made from these three items can be expected in nearly every Goan meal. Besotted with seafood, the Goans find truly world-class prawns, lobsters, crabs, and jumbo pomfrets along the coastline and use them to make a variety of soups, salads, pickles, curries, and fries. An essential ingredient in Goan cooking is coconut milk made by grating the white flesh of a coconut and soaking it in a cup of warm water. Equally important is the ‘kokum’, a sour, deep red colored fruit that gives it a sharp and sour flavor. The famous red Goan chilies are also a must for most dishes, as is tamarind. Goans make their own version of vinegar from toddy. Then there are innumerable chutneys that are typical of the state. Goa is not particularly known for its vegetarian dishes. While Hindus like lamb and chicken, Christians prefer pork. However, both prefer fish and seafood to any other meat.
Traditional Goan cooking calls for plenty of muscle and time. Grinding is always part of the recipe and the nicer the dish the longer it takes to make. Although the styles of the various communities, past and present, have had their effect on each other, the gravies of each style are at a complete variance. The names used are the same, as are the ingredients used, for making a delicacy, yet their aroma, flavor, taste, texture, and color can be completely different. Subtle differences in ingredients or their use make the outcome of these similar recipes so different. The Christians prefer to use vinegar, while the Hindus use kokum and tamarind to get the tang in their respective cuisines. The northerners of Goa grind their coconuts and masalas (spices) individually while the southern Goans like to grind them together, and then pass it through a fine muslin cloth to retain the goodness. Many times people vary the pork to mutton and chicken to make the various curries. Although coconut is an essential part of the everyday cooking, there is no coconut in several of the popular delicacies like rissois de camarao, sopa grossa, balchao and vindaloo, and that wedding favourite, caldo. And, naturally, when sardines are cooked with tomato puree and olive oil in the Portuguese manner, coconut is absent.
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