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Goan Food

Goan Food is a bit of an oddity in India. The area obviously has Hindu origins but it was also a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It is this together with its geographical position on the South West Coast of India that defines its cuisine.

Goa is the smallest Indian state by area; at less then 1,500 square miles (3,700 square kms), it is less than one fifth the size of Wales with a population of about one and a half million. The Portuguese arrived as traders in about 1500AD and conquered it pretty soon after that. It remained a Portuguese colony until 1961. One of there main imports to the region was Christianity and although Hindus are still the majority (about 65%) there is still a large Catholic community (about 25%) in Goa.

Geographically it lies in a tropical zone on the Arabian Sea, and the climate is hot and humid for most of the year. The summer daytime temperatures get up to 35C with fearsome humidity; even the night time 'winter' temperatures only get down to about 20C. They have a three month monsoon from June to September. Goa also has one of the largest and best natural harbours in the whole of Southern Asia.

More than a third of the state is covered by equatorial forest and the area has an immensely rich biodiversity. From a culinary point of view this means the availability of a large range of produce. They grow rice, lentils and millet as staples, but also mangoes, bananas, pineapples and coconuts trees are everywhere.

Its position on the coast also provides a lot of seafood, and this is a main feature of Goan food - the staple food is rice and fish. As well as big fish such as shark and tuna, there is also an abundance of shellfish - crabs, lobsters, prawns and mussels. When I was in Maharastra, just to the north of Goa I ate pomfret (sometimes known as butter fish) a really lovely white fish from this area.

The Hindi cuisine is vegetarian based; some Hindus of the area are strict vegetarians but there others who eat fish and chicken on occasion. The principle features of the vegetarian Hindu diet are lentils, squashes and gourds, bamboo shoots and rice. Non-vegetarian dishes are mainly fish in various forms curried, fried and dishes made from dried fish. The oil of choice for cooking is coconut oil.

The Catholic cuisine include meat dishes such as Vindaloo, Xacuti, a more complex curry using many spices, and Sorpotel, a dish of pork, offal, spices and vinegar.

Rice is an important part of Goan food; they have form of rice pudding called arroz doce (literally sweet rice) which is made from rice, milk, cinnamon, lemon juice and sugar and sanni which is a Goan version of idli with added coconut, and Patoleo which is saffron or banana leaves stuffed with rice, coconut and jaggery.

So Goan cooking is the home of the vindaloo but perhaps Goan food ought to be better known for its fish and rice and coconut. I have cooked a number of dishes from this area and I will be adding some more Goan dishes to the site in due course.

Goan Food Recipes

Meen Molee (Fish in Coconut cream)
Chicken Vindaloo
Lamb Vindaloo
Pork Vindaloo
Prawn Vindaloo

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