Eating in Goa

Don’t be shocked. There is more to Goa than 3 day raves and psychedelic parties, wrapped up in tie-dye sarongs. Never mind the banana boats and the para-sailing and please wear a helmet when you drive! Goa, with all its beaches and Portuguese influences, it’s romantic charm and salty sea air, is an unparalleled haven when it comes to food – and none of Goa’s fancy restaurants compare to the hidden, behind-a-wall shacks, the beach shacks, the little huts where one can memorably have a food-baby! As they say, nothing beats local knowledge, and when the locals are family, the equation delivers even more power…

Mirchi bhaji
Buns and mushroom curry

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In the middle of Panaji, CAFE BHONSLE is the best place to go for typical Goan snacks and munchies. Head through to the back where the air conditioned room is and try the mirchi bhaji (chilli fritters) with coconut chutney! Very moreish. Then have any of the vegetable curries  (I had mushroom) with the buns. Buns (they really are known in the plural) are like puri’s but with the addition of plantain, making them slightly sweet and when they’re all puffy and hot…..well…one just isn’t enough!

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On the way to Baga beach from Panaji one comes across Florentine. The restaurant is about a 5 minute walk off the road, and full of locals. It’s best for Chicken Cafreal and Caramel Custard. Unlike everywhere else, the chicken cafreal here is light and not smothered in a thick paste and has a magical tangy pungency to it. Make sure you ask for gravy separately to dunk your pao (crusty bread) into. The caramel custard is surprisingly good  and perfectly cooked!

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Chilli Pork
Masala fried fish
Pork Sorpotel
Sausage Pulao

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From there head on to Calangute Beach and Souza Lobo, where you might be given a token and told to await your turn in the waiting room! Calangute oitself isn’t worth spending time, being far too crowded, dirty and busy, so just warming one’s heels in the waiting room is highly advisable!

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So, leaving my cousins to order what they knew to be the best dishes, I was greeted, first by Chilli Pork Fry – the tenderest of pork with  chilli and green pepper. This was followed by Goan Masala Fried Fish – kingfish covered in a chilli, garlic, onion and toddy vinegar masala which was simm-plee waaah-waah! Next came Pork Sorpotel and Pork Vindaloo. The cousin made sure to check if it was at least 3 days old – believe me, this makes a huge difference – one doesn NOT want to eat either of these dishes when they’re fresh. The flavour develops over the 3 days. The sorpotel (diced pork and pork liver curry) was far superior to the vindaloo. And finally, the last piece to arrive was the Goan Sausage Pulao – a sausage that tastes a mix between a vindaloo and a chorizo, cooked with diced peppers and rice – heavily drenched in the sausage fat, but one of the most satisfying mouthfuls one could ever chomp down on!

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Bolo sans rival

A short walk from Souza Lobo is the patisserie Infantaria where there are 2 things that are a must have. Bebinca – a layered coconut and jaggery cake and the Bolo Sans Rival, a cashew cake. Both of which are fabulous. I have a preference to Bebinca, having eaten it all my life, and it is, really, really moreish!

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The ones we didn’t have time for, and ones that I know to be worth a visit, as my uncle, an authority on Goan food highly recommended them to me! They are: Nostalgia at  Uzro-Raia, Salcete and The Fishermans Wharf

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