Goan Food: 20 Popular Dishes from Goa
Known for its scenic beaches, lush coconut grooves, cold fenny, and fish curry, Goa is the party capital of India and attracts over 7 million travelers to the tiny coastal state on the banks of the Arabian Sea.
The tiny seaside state is nestled between forests and hills on the east and a rich and bountiful coast on the west. Nestled in the western ghats, there is access to a plethora of spices and the sea makes it easily accessible to trade. This put Goa on the global trade map and eventually led to Portuguese colonization up until the late 1940s.
The Goan cuisine is influenced by the sea and by its erstwhile rulers, leading to an interesting mix of ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavor combinations.
The Portuguese introduced chilis to India, and there began a love story that has endured for centuries. With an abundance of coconut, seafood, fresh spices, vinegar, and rice, the cuisine is a medley of a multitude of flavors. It is a cuisine intriguingly different from any other Indian food, perhaps because of the European look and taste of some dishes, perhaps because of the sometimes-generous addition of toddy and feni.
The Europeans themselves would declare that while the dishes look and taste European, there is a je ne sais quoi that makes them Indian, and the Indians would say that the dishes made with local ingredients taste different, not quite Indian. Both are right—the cuisine is authentic Goan.
Goa is situated on a strip of land between the mountains of the Deccan and the Arabian Sea. Its soil is a deep red, the sea blue-green, the sands as white as sugar, and the tall coconut palms burst with green against a clear blue sky.
The higher reaches of the mountains are covered with thick forests, while the lower slopes are dominated by plantations of teak, cashew, mango, areca, and bananas. Between the mountains and the beaches are the fields—lush through the year with successive crops of rice, vegetables, and sugarcane. Between the fields and the coast are the famous beaches of Goa, enclosed by groves of coconut palms, stretching for miles along the entire coastline, only to be broken by the occasional river or rocky promontory.
Goa reclaimed its spot in global tourism in the early ’60s, which saw a large influx of tourists from around the world visiting its beaches making it a hot spot on the hippie trail. This global influx has also given rise to a large number of fusion recipes, which can be found at the various night markets and street food vendors that dot the towns and cities.
Let’s take a dive and explore this beachside paradise and its abundance of mouthwatering food and beverages.
1. Arroz e Chouriço: Goan Sausage and Rice
The Goan churico is the Portuguese cousin of the world-renowned Spanish sausage. The Indian and Portuguese influences are strongly evident, with pork being the preferred meat of choice. The sausages are flavored with vinegar, garlic, hot chili peppers, and spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon, making it extremely spicy.
A trip to the local market in one of the larger towns will bring you to areas singularly dedicated to selling varieties of these sausages. Most varieties use chunks of diced pork rather than the typical ground meat used in sausages.
Pair with rice, potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic, season with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf, and find yourself lost in a plethora of exciting and tantalizing flavors leaving you wanting more. This is a go-to pulav when you’re in a rush or you have unexpected company. These sausages are flavored with chili powder and vinegar, giving them a long shelf life. Just make sure to store them in a dry airtight container.
You can use either basmati or a southern short-grain rice, depending on your taste, but do not use red rice.
2. Ros Omelet
A common sight along the various streets of the tiny seaside villages and towns is of hawkers selling this oddly delightful and satisfying snack. It’s a medley of a masala omelet, nestled on a bed of hot chicken curry and served with a rustic poe or pav or local bread.
A favorite with youngsters, you can find stores serving this humble delicacy late into the night, making them a hot spot for party-goers looking for that midnight snack to satisfy their post-party hunger pangs.
Ros translates as gravy or sauce. This curry is a mildly spiced chicken xacutti gravy thickened with fresh coconut milk and flavored with dry red Kashmiri chilies that are bright in color but mild in heat. Toddy fermented Poe or pavs or bread is preferred for enjoying this heavenly creation, as that absorbes the savory curry. Eating it in one go releases a burst of flavors and textures combined in such harmony it reflects the culinary melange that Goan cuisine represents.
So whether you are hungry for a quick Indian snack in the evening or looking to satisfy those bar-crawl munchies, look no further than your humble Ros omelet vendor, less than a dollar per serving.
3. Pao Com Chouriço: Goan Sausage Burgers
Another immaculate conception of the streets, pairing two of the most significant gourmet contributions of the Portuguese: bread and sausages. The bread in question here is a rustic bread redolent of hints of yeast and coconut toddy (alcohol prepared from the sap of the coconut palm, fermented to make vinegar) with a thick and crunchy exterior and soft moist interior.
Pair this with the spicy and tangy Goan pork chourico or chorizo stir-fried with onions and peppers caramelized into a mouth-watering mash filled with vibrant flavors.
Just like the Ros omelette, the best place to find this treat is the streets of Panjim, the capital city of Goa situated along the banks of the river Mandovi. Find the most crowded shop and you are bound to find a treat for the senses awaiting you.
Contemporary versions of this humble yet delicious street food include pineapple salsa and guacamole, giving it a Spanish/Mexican twist. But the classic burger is accompanied with cabbage and carrot coleslaw and masala chips. This burger is a hit with the masses and can be found anywhere from street food vendors to gourmet burger houses.
Definitely worth a try on your next visit to Goa.
4. Orchata: Almond and Rose Water Cooler
Similar to the Spanish horchata, the word originates from the Latin hordeata, signifying barley water. Rich in medicinal properties, it’s known to cool and hydrate the body as it is rich in vitamins and minerals. The Spanish version is made with tiger nut, a wrinkly tuber with a nutty aftertaste. This is combined with sugarcane and cinnamon.
The Goan variant is made with almonds that are blanched puréed and strained to extract their milk. This is then cooked with sugar till a thick white syrup is obtained. At this point the traditional recipe calls for the addition of rosewater or almond essence, some recipes even combine cardamom.
This concentrated liquid is usually watered down and served cold with ice, sometimes mixed with milk too. It is a common drink in the summer and is usually associated with the more affluent parts of society.
When orchata is prepared in large batches for gatherings, the almonds are usually substituted with cashews, which are more readily available from the hills, and sometimes even groundnuts. The drink has cooling properties, is vegan and is gluten-free.
5. Beef or Pork Assado: Roast Meat with Spices
This is a popular roast dish that can be made with either pork or beef, and, since it’s a slow-cooked dish, tough cuts of meat are tenderized and made more palatable. A recipe from the cookbooks of the masses, it’s a crowd-pleaser and usually finds its way onto the table for those special occasions or large family meals. It’s a dish most Goans look forward to and reminiscence over about their childhood.
It’s a mildly spiced roast recipe with a slightly saucy consistency. The recipe includes a medley of spices ranging from chilis, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, ginger, and garlic. The base of tomatoes and onions provides tenderizing moisture, and lime gives it an added tang of citrus.
Its mostly eaten with red Goan rice or white basmati rice but can be paired with an array of flat or leavened bread. Mild in heat but packed with an array of aromatic spices, it’s perfect for those cold winter nights. Prepare it in batches and add some veggies. Made into sandwiches, it’s perfect for carrying to work or eating when you’re in a hurry.
6. Beef Cutlet Bread Fontainhas
Another late night treat and a hit with party anima is this typical Goan semolina crusted beef cutlet, packed with a spicy, tangy marinade. With a mild hint of garlic, it’s crispy on the outside, coated with an egg wash and roasted semolina, and soft and flavor-packed on the inside. Pair this with a rustic poe or pav and top it with a crunchy cabbage and carrot slaw.
The beef cutlets are pounded and tenderized before being marinated overnight, giving them a blast of flavor. A melt in your mouth treat, with most patrons devouring upwards of three sliders each. Costing less than a dollar per pop, no wonder most stalls sell out with hungry diners still lingering even at 3am.
If you find yourself on the prowl for an evening snack or a late night binge, try hitting up one of the stalls that dot the riverside drive in Panjim and enjoy a treat for your senses. These are pretty easy to make and can be found on most family dinner tables as well. If beef isn’t your thing, try the chicken version. A pro tip is to always ask your vendor to top your slider with a bit of their home made roast gravy.
7. Kokum Juice
Kokum is the fruit of the Garcinia Indica, a tree of the mangosteen family, and is widely used as a souring agent along the west coast of India. The fruit has culinary, industrial, and pharmaceutical value. It is a purple berry that is even found mentioned in the Vedas – the Holy Hindu Scriptures.
Its been used for its medicinal value and is known to aid in the treatment and cure of infections, sores, stomach ulcers, indigestion, arthritic pain, and diarrhea and constipation.
Referred to fondly as sherbert or xeroupe (syrup), it is a common ingredient in most Goan households and considered a delicacy. It is usually consumed during the long summers and aids in hydrating and cooling the body. The syrup is made by hydrating sun-dried kokum pods and cooking them down with sugar to form a dark syrup. This is then seasoned with black salt, lime, roasted cumin powder, and even pepper.
This syrup has a long shelf life and can be stored in the refrigerator or even outside for months on end. Just dilute with water and ice and find yourself sipping a cooling and healthy drink.
8. Pork Empadinhas: Mini Pork Pies
No Goan occasion is complete without pork on the table, whether it is roast pork, vindaloo, or sausages, Goans love their pork and this is a favourite from grandma’s cookbook. These mini pork pies are perfect as appetizers for lunch or as a light evening snack.
Some are half-moon-shaped and resemble the patties of the Caribbean, some are shaped like muffins and coated with an egg wash to give them a rich and luscious texture and appearance. The boneless pork is flavored with vinegar, tamarind, and feni, giving it a tangy aftertaste. The dough is made with flour, butter, eggs, and salt and is flaky and rich.
Reminders of the colonial past, these tiny appetizers are a delight to make and eat. The exterior is rich and flaky paired with a smooth and juicy pork filling.
9. Chicken Galantine
The highlight of the Christmas dinner table, this recipe requires dexterity of the hands, sharp knives, and even sharper knife skills, in order to debone an entire chicken carcass. The chicken is then stuffed, trussed, and roasted, giving a crispy exterior and a moist and tender interior, stuffed with a mix of herbs packed with flavors.
It is usually served with gravy and a side of sautéed or steamed vegetables and roast potatoes. A true spectacle that will impress your guests on special occasions. This is a dish with European influences but has been adopted and morphed by those that cherish it here in India.
Prepare stuffing with your favorite meat or sausage, pair it with some mushrooms, beans or carrots, some nuts, and probably some bread crumbs. Season with chili powder, cumin, turmeric, vinegar or basil, oregano, dill, celery, and thyme. Either way, you will be left with a stunner of a dish.
Some recipes call for the galantine to be steamed and then pan-fried while some prefer oven roasting. Oven roasting above a pan of water is best, to keep the meat moist and tender. Cook it at 220 °C till the outer is crisp and browned and the core reaches a moist 85 °C.
These dainty treats, packed full of flavor and rich in texture, could have you eating multiple pieces before you realize what’s happening as they are absolutely delicious. The base is made with a flavorful sponge rich in butter and eggs and is topped with a creamy, thick custard usually flavored with lime zest or vanilla.
The cake cut into squares that are folded in half. They are then dusted with icing sugar to finish them off. A favorite with kids and adults alike, this is originally a Portuguese dish adapted by the people of Goa. Some modern versions use fruit-flavored ganaches, some even combine compotes and creams, pineapple being a hot favorite.
Great for a treat or as a gift when visiting a friend, these are perfect when served slightly chilled. A great addition to evening tea.
11. Xacuti Chicken: Chicken Xacuti Curry
This is a traditional Goan curry with a complex ingredient base including sesame seeds, grated coconut, and dry red chilies. It has a bright orange color and is usually thick, perfect when paired with steamed white rice or a rustic Poe.
The name originates from the Portuguese chacuti, pronounced shakuti. This curry can be prepared with beef, lamb, or chicken, which is the most famous and widely available. A ros omelet is topped with a chicken xacuti gravy.
Onions form the base for the curry and it is seasoned with an array of aromatic spices, including poppy seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns, and coriander, fennel, and fenugreek seeds.
The gravy has a complex yet comforting flavor palette and represents Goan comfort food and is one of the most common dishes in the state. If you’re looking for an authentic Goan experience, you must try this warm and comforting curry.
12. Caril De Caranguejos: Goan Crab Curry
Beloved and famous across the globe is the Goan crab curry, known for its fiery red appearance. The creamy, spicy masala or curry is made with coriander and fenugreek seeds (methi), black peppercorns, cloves, and dry red chilis roasted along with grated coconut and then all ground together.
The curry can be a thick masala accompanied by rotis or pavs, or can be a smooth, fine curry served with steamed rice or rice crepes. Either way, this dish is a winner any day and is a must-try on any list of Goan delicacies. Blue ocean crabs are the preferred variety here but they can be replaced with an array of seafood, ranging from prawns to clams, mussels, and fish, and even squid.
This is recipe is usually served for lunch or dinner and is not one for the faint hatred. A messy but overall delightful affair for enjoying freshly cooked crab.
13. Ambo Tik: Hot and Sour Fish Curry
This is a hot and tart curry made with shark or ray. The white flesh of these fish is perfect for absorbing the deep flavors of this authentic Goan curry. Pair it with some steamed rice, sautéed veggies, and a side salad for a quick and scrumptious Goan meal.
The name originates from ambo, meaning sour or tart, and tik, meaning hot in Konkani – hot and sour curry. The heat from dry red chilis, ginger, and garlic pairs with the tangy essence of tamarind and vinegar preferably coconut palm vinegar. This curry can be prepared with prawns and calamari. Like most Goan curries it’s best when prepared a day in advance to allow the fish to completely absorb the flavors.
This curry is perfect for those times when you run out of coconut as the base a purée of onions, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. Turmeric, peppercorns, and cumin are the aromatics in this simple yet robust curry.
14. Goan Pork Vindaloo
A personal favourite that reminds me of mum’s cooking is this world-renowned dish that can be found in many famous Indian restaurants across the country. This recipe is perfect for pork, especially for fatty cuts of meat. The sharp and tangy flavours compliment the rich and fatty texture of the meat.
There are versions of this curry made with lamb or chicken, but nothing comes close to the traditional one prepared with pork as the richness of the meat adds an overall touch of umami that other meats just can’t match.
Dry red chilis, garlic, and vinegar form the base of this spicy yet decadent curry. The word vindaloo originates from the Portuguese words for vinegar “vin” and garlic “alho”. It is a misconception that the word aloo refers to potato. This is completely untrue and adding potato deviates from the traditional recipe.
This dish is best served a day after cooking as the meat stew in the rich, red curry imparting its fat and meaty flavor. Mostly served with rice, bread or rotis, it makes the perfect lunch or dinner, and even breakfast with rice hopper or bread.
15. Estew: Goan Chicken Stew
A popular breakfast dish, this is a hearty stew made with a coconut milk base and flavored with an array of whole spices and ground spice powders, cloves, and cinnamon, to add a sweet taste. Then ground coriander, pepper, cumin, and turmeric.
Onions, capsicum, ginger, garlic, and chilis are the preferred aromatics here and add a piquant and savory overall flavor. Tomatoes and coconut milk add body to the dish and give it a creamy and tangy consistency.
Most recipes call for boneless chicken breast, but boned chicken thighs remain more tender and juicy than lean breast meat, which usually dries out and ends up becoming fibrous when stewed for a long time.
Some recipes call for the addition of beans, green peas, and carrots too. Best served with steamed rice, rice hoppers, steamed sannas, or fermented rice dumplings.
16. Lulas Recheadas: Stuffed Squid
Lulas means squid in Portuguese and recheadas means to stuff. Squids are cleaned and then stuffed with a tangy and flavorful shrimp filling.
If not cooked properly, the squid can get rubbery and chewy. The trick is to ensure that the squids are cooked on a low flame, making them tender and juicy, whilst preserving the moist and flavorful inner filling. Small or medium-sized squids are perfect for this dish, and it can be served as a snack or appetizer.
Squids are rich in proteins and vitamins and are a great treat when you have access to fresh seafood that goes straight from the coast to your kitchen. The filling is typically made with onions, minced prawns or shrimp, chilis, and rechado masala. The squid heads are cleaned, marinated, and stuffed before being sealed with toothpicks and cooked in a pan.
Another great culinary contribution from the Portuguese and their love for seafood.
17. Pork Sopotel
Not a dish for the faint hearted, this recipe includes pork meat, offal, and other cuts not usually accepted at the dinner table. The ingenuity of the recipe and the balancing of flavors has transformed this humble peasant dish into one of the world’s most iconic and famous Goan dishes.
Liver, intestines, ears, and trotters are boiled along with the meat and fat with turmeric and salt over charcoal for a minimum of two hours to render them soft and edible. They are then cubed into even sized pieces and then fried in pork fat before being added to a spicy and deeply rich gravy base. It is all then cooked till the meat melts in your mouth.
A popular dish in catholic household, it is usual to find it on the Christmas dinner table. Dry red chilis, ginger, ground pepper, cumin, and cinnamon are the main spices used. Onions and green chilis form the base, while coconut vinegar and feni add a touch of added flavor.
18. Fish Rechado
A popular appetizer in the Goan sea food is thali, usually prepared from a fatty deep-water fish such as mackerel (bhangda), which is marinated and stuffed with a spicy rechado masala. Coated with roasted semolina, it is then pan fried till crispy on the outside and moist and flavourful on the inside.
It is the perfect side dish to accompany your fish curry and rice. Although the traditional recipe calls for mackerel, white pompfret can also be used. The masala paste is made with a base of dry red Kashmiri chilis, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves. ginger, and garlic. Vinegar sugar and salt are also used to flavor the paste.
The fish can be marinated, stored in the refrigerator, and fried just before serving. It is juicy and succulent.
19. Mandos: Tea Time Snack
A simple yet delicious treat perfect for that laidback evening cuppa tea, this is made with parboiled rice, ground coconut, palm sugar, and cardamom. It’s a unique dish originating from Goa. It is packed with the strong smoky molasses flavor of palm sugar and hints of ground cardamom powder.
Contemporary versions include orange and lime zest paired with dried fruits and a variety of nuts, making it a rich and delicious tea time snack loved by all.
Rice is soaked overnight, ground into a thick paste, and then combined with a thick syrup made from ground coconut paste, palm jaggery, and sugar. The two bases are blended and seasoned with sweet spices before being poured into a lined pan and steamed till fully cooked. It has the consistency of steamed cakes and a deep rich flavor.
The star and pride of any Goan household, this traditional layered steam cake is famous the world over and has a fudgy texture paired with a deep rich smoky and sweet custard flavor.
The traditional recipe calls for 40 eggs and 20 layers, each layer being steamed one after and the other, with each one taking half an hour to steam. It is a labor of love and recipes have been carefully handed down through the generations.
The dish is flavored with palm sugar and clarified butter giving it an added nutty tone. Though it appears closer to a layered cake, it is more similar to a pudding in nature. Coconut milk, eggs, butter, and flour make the base for this delightful dessert.
Pair it with vanilla ice cream to give it an added twist.