Best Goan heritage dishes that’ll make you forget the rest

Goa is all about sun and sand and eating by the beach.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Shweta Andrews

Goa is all about sun and sand and eating by the beach. Under these touristy labels the heart of Goa, with its multi-cultural beginnings often gets lost. Goan life is linked closely to its cuisine. Feasting, family time and festivities are all part of this unique cultural experience. I can still remember as a pigtailed little girl taking in the sight of tables groaning under elaborate meals at Goan family weddings and the hearty homemade treats during Christmas.

The heart of the Goan home is its kitchen. And it gets noisy. Men and women get together amidst much ribbing and laughter and occasional quarrels over getting things right. But, let’s move away from the Vindaloo, the chicken cafreal and the bibinca and try a few (of many) favourite Goan heritage dishes, homestyle.


Crab xec xec.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Shweta Andrews

Crab xec xec

(pronounced crab ‘zec’ ‘zec’) this is at the top of my list. A must have in Goa, this dish is packed with flavours. Scrumptious crabs cooked in coconut along with chilies, onions, peppercorns and coriander seeds are laden and simmered with spices and cooked to perfection. It’s seasoned with tamarind juice and is served with steamed rice.

Must have at: Kamlabai, Kasarwada, Khorlim, Mapusa, Goa.

Fish curry and rice.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Shweta Andrews

Goan fish curry

The staple in most households is the traditional fish curry and rice. This curry can be prepared with a variety of fish like Pomfret, mackerel (aka king fish) or Black Pomfret (also known as Halwa). While ordering at a restaurant, ask the chef about the ‘catch of the day’. Its silky smooth, creamy coral coloured gravy is made with Indian spices including loads of chillies, coconut and tamarind that give it a tangy kick. Indulge in this flavoursome goodness with a steaming plate of rice.

Must have at: Riorico, Bandodkar Road, Central Panjim.

Beef chilli and prawn pulao.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Shweta Andrews

Beef chilli fry and prawn pulao

Tender, juicy pieces of beef are slowly stir-fried in ginger, garlic and coconut vinegar creating meat packed with some really tangy and zesty flavours. Its deep brown gravy is prepared with tomatoes and other rich spices. Eaters beware! This fiery plate of beef is not for the faint-hearted. Enjoy with hot chapatis or fresh paos.

Prawn Pulao is a simple dish of rice cooked in aromatic spices with fresh prawns, a dish sometimes prepared in chicken or coconut broth which gives it its distinguished flavour. It is garnished with toasted crunchy cashews and fresh coriander. Go ahead, break the rules and try the beef chili with the prawn pulao. There’ll be no regret.

Must have at: Martins Corner, Betalbatim, South Goa.

Pork roast

A sinful dish of pork tenderloins marinated in salt, ginger and garlic. It is simmered in fragrant spices till the pork turns soft. It’s then garnished with roasted potatoes and carrots. This dish is best enjoyed with a glass of red wine and a huge appetite.

Must have at: O Coqueiro, Alto-Porvorim Bardez, Goa.

Prawn balchao

A pickle made with prawns, lots of red chili and roasted, ground spices, this fiery Goan dish originated in the Portuguese colony of Macau. It’s a favorite in Goan Catholic households. You can have it with a simple dish of Dal and rice on a hot summer day. But while in Goa, have it with hot plain boiled rice or fresh paos.

Must have at: Martins Corner, Betalbatim, South Goa.

Coconut Ice, with its hard crust yet surprisingly chewy centre, will melt in your mouth.

Coconut Ice

This mouth-watering dessert made with scrapped coconut, semolina, ground cashews, butter and sugar resemble delicate pink rose petals. Its hard crust, with a surprisingly chewy centre, will melt in your mouth. This heavenly Goan creation will leave a sweet almond-y, coconut-y after-taste that will make you want more. You should certainly not leave Goa without a few packets in hand.

Available at: all confectionary stores across Goa.

Tip: don’t forget to pack some Goan pork sausages. Beware of the airtight packaged ones sold in stores. Speak to a local about the best place to buy fresh sausages. You can also pick up a bottle of port wine while you’re at it.

With inputs from Lonely Planet India’s travel guide, Goa for the Indian Traveller.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Shweta works with Lonely Planet India and has been with the company since the past three years. She's an avid shopper and loves to cook.