Treasure Trove of Goa

, Palate

Cashewnuts, jackfruit, coconut, kokum, shempra, bimbli and tirphal are some of nature’s gifts to Goa. The versatility and appeal of these ingredients have inspired chefs to reimagine the already-popular local cuisine, and even global dishes, with these fruits and spices. They are now exploring new dishes apart from the quintessential Goan favourites: xacuti, caldeen, ambotik, vindaloo and cafreal. Many of these curries are now being given a modern twist. Goa’s  Tourism Ministry, on its part, has stepped up efforts to popularise these locally-grown crops, particularly cashew and coconut.

Nature’s bounty

Jackfruit, aka phanas, is found everywhere in Goa. Kappo and rossao are two of its local varieties, which are both served as fruit. Rossao, in addition, is used to make satta (a sun-dried jackfruit cake). In many households, raw jackfruit dishes are commonplace. Raw jackfruit is typically used to cook shaak or bhaji, among which the gharyachi bhaji forms a regular part of meals. Sunit Sharma, Executive Chef, Cidade de Goa, explains the resourcefulness of the fruit: “Jackfruit is versatile, and all its parts can be used. Ripe jackfruit is used as a dessert, and the raw seeds are cooked in a curry.” Ripe jackfruits are also used in gharyachyo dhonas, a cake made by adding semolina and coconut.

Goa’s pride

Over the last few years, cashew (bibbe in Konkani) has taken centre-stage in Goa. The state’s Tourism Ministry conducts the Coconut and Cashew Festival to showcase their multiple uses. Likewise, for the last five years, during the harvest season, Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa has been tracing the life journey of cashew, Goa’s beloved fruit, acquainting people with its infinite possibilities in cooking.

The chefs at Park Hyatt Goa use cashew in all forms, both the apple and the nut. Apart from local dishes, they cater to a diverse global palate. They have designed innovative recipes for cashew salads, urrak chicken shawarma, prawn flambé with cashew feni, cashew-crusted fish, cashew-coated chicken fingers with curry mayonnaise, fresh cashew fruit crumble, cashew fruit sorpotel, and the alle belle cold cheese cake with cashew. Cashew Nuts are now used as clever substitutes. The famed Goan cake bolo sans rival has been reimagined with cashew nut powder instead of the customary almonds, which the Portuguese generally used.

Chef Sunit of Cidade de Goa reveals, “Cashewnuts are used in honey cashew cake, which is a Portuguese heritage recipe, and also in kaju watana tondak, cashew and peas in a spiced, ground coconut curry.”

Not restricting themselves only to sweets, Goans are now integrating cashew nuts in shivrak or vegetarian dishes. Their bibbe upkari (stir-fried cashew curry) is quite famous, and tondak is yet another dish in which beans complement cashews.

Tender and young cashew nuts are available for a few months before the advent of summer and are generally plucked and peeled much before they completely mature. Their soft texture sets them apart and lends the right flavours to vegetable preparations.

The tough nut

Coconut forms the base of every curry in Goan cuisine, yet chefs have rediscovered other uses of this ingredient. Chef Sunit elaborates its many applications: “Coconut is the key ingredient. Coconut milk, in combination with kokum, is used in appetisers or digestive beverages like sol kadi. It is ground into paste for fish curry masala (with kokum as the souring agent), while mackerel curry is typically spiced with tirphal, another local ingredient. In chicken xacuti, roasted coconut is used, and in veg foogath, desiccated coconut is sprinkled on top. Again, coconut milk is used in bebinca, while grated coconut is stuffed in alle belle with dark palm jaggery.”

Park Hyatt in Goa is known for its delectable tarkarachem hoomand or vegetables simmered in coconut red chilli curry. The hotel even mixes coconut water in mocktails to give them an interesting and healthy twist, reveals Chef Rajinder, Executive Sous Chef, Park Hyatt, Goa.

Tangy kokum

Sol kadi or kokum sherbet may be the most popular drink in the Konkan region, but this reddish souring agent is now also a substitute for tamarind. It is added to fish curries made with sardine and mackerel, as well as in ambot tik, pork amsol, and tival. It also imparts a unique flavour to okra or bhindi bhaji.

Black is beautiful

Who can resist dodol or pinaca when gorging on Goan sweets? Made from the sap of coconut palm, this dark brown jaggery, also called madachem godd locally, is easily available in markets. It is extensively used in Goan sweets, including Bol, a semi-circular wedding cake baked from coconut and jaggery.

So, experience the culinary diversity of Goa and savour both local and global dishes, as chefs unleash their creativity with locally-grown ingredients.

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