FROM AROUND GOA
Goan cuisine has been influenced by an exotic blend of sea, spices and foreign invaders – first the Portuguese, then the hippies and lately food-savvy travellers – which means delicious Indian snacks, fantastic fish and modern fusion are all on offer
Pousada on the Beach, Calangute
Address:- Holiday Street, Calangute
Phone:- +91 992 227 9265
Believe it or not, it’s hard to get refined Goan food on the beach. This is where Pousada comes in. In a secluded garden setting set back from Calangute’s crowded sands, this place uses quality local ingredients and has great respect for traditional technique, and it shows – only certain mature coconuts from its own trees go into the curries, fresh toddy vinegar is used in the balchão (a spicy seafood or meat dish) and spices are ground by hand. Beef and prawn dishes are uniformly exceptional, and the vegetable caldin (stew) is a delight.
La Plage, Ashwem beach
Address:- Ashwem beach
Phone:- +91 982 212 1712, open Nov-May, reservation advised
Inn 2007, my crazy Gallic landlord in south Goa told us, when heading north, to check out a “small French beach shack called La Plage”. Almost a decade later, that shack has grown into an institution favoured by travellers, tycoons, ladies-who-lunch and – crucially – the hard-to-please expat community. Yes, it’s that rare beast – a restaurant that’s changed with Goa, become famous yet remained true to its laid-back origins and chic, rugged cooking. The sesame-grilled tuna and beef carpaccio are outstanding, the chocolate thali legendary. Also try the saffron risotto with grilled prawns and house special mussels.
Noronha’s Corner, Anjuna
Address:- Anjuna Circle (junction of the Anjuna-Mapusa and Calangute-Siolim roads)
My favourite fast food in Goa. Brothers Charles, Lazarus and Joseph Noronha have been parking their food truck at the Anjuna Circle almost every night since 2009, serving up hearty Goan-Catholic snacks, including the three beefs (cutlet, chilly-fry and roast), a particularly fine and spicy Goan-sausage burger, fish cutlet and chicken cafreal (spicy grilled chicken). The brothers learned their trade from their parents, particularly their father who used to cater for weddings, and working in beach shacks and bars. These guys know what they’re good at and stick to it, and they’re open well into the night.
Surya Beach Cafe, Galgibag beach
Address:- Galgibag beach south end (follow the small lane left of the chapel),
Much of Galgibag beach’s long pine-crested sweep of sand is deserted on account of it being a turtle nesting ground. It was our secret getaway in the south, and Surya our hangout. The premise is simple: while you doze in a hammock, Surya’s mother cooks whatever he (and other family members) catch – mussels, oysters, prawns, mackerel, crab, pomfret, white and red snapper – in the little kitchen on their ancestral land. There have been innovations over the years: Russians showed him their way of treating oysters, an Australian taught him line fishing, and the crowds (and prices) have increased, but the shack, at heart, remains the same. And those oysters!
Fish thali (fish with curry and rice)
Goa’s one-plate meal, eaten at lunch, generally consists of a fish or baby prawn curry, fried fish, rice, veg, baby clams and a side of pickle and sol kadhi (kokum-infused water). You can find this everywhere, each variant has its virtues, and often the small, family-run joints serve the best. Two in Mapusa are busy Kamlabai (+91 985 070 3343), which adds a pungent, salted-dried prawn kismor to theirs, and Balgo, around for 50 years (+91 982 216 7004), still has its owner in the kitchen; Sabina’s thali (behind South Palolem beach) has a lemony, peppery flavour; Hotel Satpurush (+91 976 381 8044) is the go-to when you’re Pernem side; and Panaji’s Ritz Classic (+91 832 242 6417) serves a monster, a huge quantity of seafood at an unbeatable price.
Like the rest of India, Goa has lots of great snacks. Ros omelette (ros is Konkani for gravy, in this case chicken, coconut and lime juice) is a local delicacy, served after 7pm. Sandeep Gaddo, by Singbal bookshop in Panaji, serves one of the best. Wedged between the Mapusa bread and flower markets, there’s a small, nameless corner full of hardy market women wolfing down mirchi pakora (batter-fried green chilli) and chai. For the late, late snack, Ajit tea stall, outside the Mapusa bus stand, serves up a famous clam xacuti (curry) from 4am to 6am. And also in Mapusa, there’s an unnamed shop near the Rashtroli temple (opposite the Amul Milk Shop) serving incredible beetroot samosas.
Ciao Bella, Assagao
Address:- 569 Assagao Badem Road, Assagao,
Contact:- +91 976 755 7673,
Mario and Simona, both old India hands, have created a cosy corner of Italy in Goa. For several seasons it was a preferred haunt of expats and long-term visitors, but as its reputation has grown, discerning domestic diners have cottoned on to the fact that it might serve some of the best pasta and pizza in India. The regular menu has starters, salads, pastas and a handful of seafood and meat mains, but it’s on the daily specials board that creativity plays out. Coccoli, porcini and truffle oil pasta, salmon squid ink tagliolini, beef pepper stew and anchovy and artichoke pizza are standouts.
Address:- Chapora Road, Vagator,
Contact:- +91 989 013 5502,
Designed and built by Israeli-Japanese couple Eliko and Mali in the style of an industrial-psychedelic izakaya (Japanese inn), there’s a real buzz to Sakana. On the Japanese menu there’s heavenly tuna teriyaki, sushi of various shades, chicken katsu, beef yakiniku, udon and ramen, gyoza and tofu dishes, and a great wakame salad. Most mains come as set meals, accompanied by rice, salad and miso soup. Portions are massive, and its wasabi vodka, made locally by a Russian vodka master, is rocket-fuel.
Palácio do Deâo, Quepem
Address:- opposite Holy Cross Church, Quepem,
Contact:- +91 832 266 4029
A restored 18th-century Portuguese nobleman’s mansion that is now home to (restorer) Reuben and Celia Vasco da Gama and their two children, Palácio offers a unique culinary experience. After a tour of the property, Celia puts on an extraordinary five-course Indo-Portuguese feast. Expect dishes such pumpkin pie, rissóis de camarão (prawn croquettes), chouriço, prawn curry with local red rice, various fish, beef or veg mains, plus dessert, wine or cocktails, all served on the gorgeous verandah. Booking is essential, as is arriving on an empty stomach.
Café Real, Panaji
Address:- Mahatma Gandhi Road, Panaji,
Contact:- +91 832 242 2264
For an authentic Goan (all-day) breakfast, you can’t beat Café Real in the state capital, which opened in the late 1940s. This is heaven for bhajis – small, richly flavoured plates of veg curry eaten with bread or piping hot puris. There’s a wide variety on offer, including potato, tomato, cauliflower, mushroom, special and mixed, along with samosas, pakoras, sugary tea and coffee, and soft drinks. Seating is canteen style, service is quick and sometimes brusque, but smile and ask what’s good and you’ll be well treated. Also look up nearby cafés Tato and Bhonsle. Both are equally wonderful.