Text and illustration by: Anirban Bora
The Goan cuisine is multi-layered, much like the celebrated bebinca. From sorportel to shark ambot tik, from balchao to feni
The legend behind the creation of the vast coastline of Konkan was depicted by Bishubabu, an ex-schoolteacher with theatrical attributes, who was fascinated by his favourite sandesh’s Portuguese connection* and went to the bottom of it.
The land attracted various rulers who brought with them their customs, religions and, more importantly, new culinary techniques resulting in a rich and diverse cuisine.
Sweet potato, corn, tapioca, passion fruit, tomato, pineapple, guava and cashew were introduced soon after.
Fidalgos, high-ranking Portuguese officials, were reserved in their lifestyles. But soon the ruling class built a rapport with the locals. The cooks working in the house of the Portuguese learnt new cooking techniques, while the Goan women who married the Portuguese began mixing local spices and cooking styles.
It resulted in a new type of cooking in Goa best known as Catholic or Christian cuisine.
In 1590, the Inquisition began in Goa. But the Hindu culinary techniques survived — beautiful and light dishes like humann (fish curry) or ambot tik, fish suke (dried fish), uddamethi ambade, danger (fish cutlets), varan bhaat (arhar dal with fresh coconut) and sweets like payasu, madgane and patoli (steamed rice pancake wrapped in turmeric leaves).
What made them different from their Catholic counterparts is the use of black mustard seeds and kokum instead of vinegar to bring tanginess to their dishes. For sweets in a Hindu house, jaggery from sugar cane is used, whereas Catholics use jaggery from palmyra palm. Goan Hindus’ sweets are ground dal-based while Catholics use eggs and nuts.