I don’t blame the husband for all his confusion; I don’t, because he thought he was marrying a nice Bengali girl from Kolkata. Little did he know he was marrying a Goan.
I have lived roughly two-thirds of my life in Kolkata, but what with a home in Goa, not to mention almost all my friends in and around Panjim, I feel a pull to Goa that you have to be a Goan to understand.
And a large part of that pull has to do with the fact that Goa has world’s best food and if you can manage to try half of my recommendations below you will be a believer too.
Disclaimer: This is the Carnivores edition…..one for the veg lovers coming soon, however there are many great vegetarian choices at the same restaurants.
Breakfast of Goans…!
Food?…Goa?…Really? Not the sun, the sand and the sea? Well, yeah, obviously, but you can’t exactly go swimming on an empty tummy, can you now?
Which is why, kickstart your day at Infantaria (Calangute) – the waiters may be surly (some are cute, though!) but the breakfast is really good. Try their Prawn Rolls if you can, after their very-filling English breakfast and you will thank me for the tip. Or go to Lila Café on the Baga Creek road for some melt-in-the-mouth croissants.
But if you want to go local, try Café Real (pronounced Ray-aal, on MG Road) for some really good Usal pao and tomato bhaji, the Indian version of ‘breakfast on the go’.
And then, my dear, go swimming. You are in Goa, no? Come up for a bit, sprawl on a deck chair and order that King’s beer. Sure the shacks also offer your popular brews, but you are in Goa, and you gotta have the local beer.
It’s what we Goans swear by, and we know our drinks, trust me! The slightly hoppy flavor gives you no bitter after-taste and a slow, pleasant high, although you will need more than a bottle for that.
Munch on the Lunch
What? Lunch time already? If you want to go local, order a Mackerel Recheado (pronounced Ray-shaad) – its mackerel fish cleaned, gutted and stuffed with some fiery, fiery Goan spices. Or order a plate of Lobster Thermidor – the giant lobsters at Martin’s Corner (Betalbatim) are plain divine. Or you could have the Baked Crab at Britto’s (Baga)– the restaurant that has become an institution for its amazing seafood.
Not big on seafood! Then try the Pork Sorpotel at Panjim Inn (Fontainhas, Panjim) – made with pork and offal, best enjoyed with sanna – spongy rice cakes. Or order the Chicken Cafreal at Florentine’s (Saligao) – the best place in Goa for the local version of grilled chicken.
Around sundown, head to Café Chocolatti (Calangute) for their English Cream Tea Spread – complete with fresh baked scones and homemade strawberry jam. Or if you don’t have a sweet tooth (really?), check-out Baba Au Rhum (Arpora) for their ambiance, sandwiches and what I believe to be the best pizzas this side of Italy.
For local flavor, go to Agassaim and look for the guy who sets up his shop opposite Monginis there – his Choris pao – a sausage stuffed bread are way better than that of the others. Spend the extra ten minutes to locate the guy under a very red stall – for his pao will blow your mind.
Get your dinner on with Squid Ink Pasta with Salmon at Ciao Bella (Badem, Vagator). But if you are not up for European (again, really?) head to Sharda near the Bambolim Cross, revered all over Goa for its Fish Thali – cooked by the old lady behind the counter or at least it’s her recipe. It’s lip-smackingly good and this is what Goans call comfort food.
Time for Drink & time to go local
While I am not a huge fan of Feni the famous (or infamous for some) Cashew or coconut liqueur, I do believe that every visitor must give it one try at least.
A bit of an acquired taste, don’t go neat or on ice, I usually pair it with Limca and a wedge of lime, but you could also have it in a cocktail. Just ask for loads of juice on a little feni.
No no…don’t worry there is Dessert too
To finish off, let me tell you about Bebinca – the traditional Goan dessert that looks as beautiful as it tastes – at least seven translucent golden layers, separated by a darker golden brown layer of caramelized coconut milk and sugar, and cooked on a slow heat applied to each layer from the top.
Most places, even the oCoqueiro (Porvorim) restaurant would serve you the dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, but here’s an insider tip – that is not really the way to have it. You need the ice cream if you are having commercially packaged bebinca, but not if you are having freshly made ones. So skip the ice cream!
However if you have chocolate on your mind, head to La Plage (Ashvem) for the Chocolate Thali and just indulge. Just indulge, don’t talk, don’t think, don’t do anything but enjoy every mouthful of the 8 uniquely decadent desserts.
Dont worry about the calories, you can always detox tomorrow or run an extra mile (not..!), but for tonite, let go and dig into that plate of sin
Food is a big deal in Goa, and for a foodie like me (if you are reading this, I am guessing you are one too!), the place has a little bit of everything. Whether you feel like having local or international food, there’s always some restaurant or shack to go to. And in spite of nearly a third of my life in Goa, I haven’t been to over half of them yet.
Watch this space for more gastronomic delights from my hometown soon, and I promise I won’t disappoint!