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Sep 12, 2006 03:41 PM

Goan Cuisine?

An Indian restaurant near me seems to have a few Goan dishes on the menu, most notably prawn Goa curry with the prawns being cooked in coconut milk. There are some other coconut milk curries on the menu.

Goa is an island off the western coast of India that has some Portugues influence and a larger Catholic population than other parts of India.

I read that Hindu Goan food does not seem to have picked up any major Portuguese influence, so does that mean most US restaurants serving Goan food would be oriented this way?

Did vindaloo originate in Goa? If not, is the Goan version different?

This is a new restaurant, but as I get to know them, what type of dishes should I ask them if they will make? I'm telling you, I'll do anything to get SOMETHING different in Indian food.

What would I look for that might be Goan influenced?

Some Goan food links:

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  1. goanese cooking is one of my favourites. right up there with sindhi, parsi, hyderabadi, malayali, tamilian, konkani, punjabi, rajasthani, udipi, mangalorean, kashmiri, bengali, gujarathi, assamese, marwadi, kutchi. but maharastrian is still trumps.

    ok, chances are you've found a bangla deshi whose attempting a few goan dish names to tempt you. shame, shame. here's how you find out: ask for the cooks name - if its d'mello, rodriguez, menezes, saldanha etc you've hit pay dirt. then by all means go nuts - ask for xacutti, vindaloo (yes indeed its a goan dish), sorpatel etc. ask for goan sausage.

    oh, here's another test: ask if they have feni. (its either fermented cashew nut juice or fermented sugar cane juice, very potent). if they look puzzled, you've lost out.

    8 Replies
    1. re: howler

      No, oddly enough on my initial forray to try the lamb nan, I met the cook and, nope, none of those names.

      Yeah, they just say they are Northern Indian with a lot of what you mention, like Hyderabadi dopiaza.

      There's just oddball stuff on the menu like Indian chicken soup and house-made mango ice cream.

      Unfortunately, when they saw me all they saw was a wall of white ... "Just ask us, we can make dishes very mild".

      When I asked what they suggested as something good, they asked if I liked curry ... sigh.

      I figure maybe if I can get some conversation going with them about different Indian cuisines, I could draw something out of them.

      So, about the feni ... in US restaurants would that come from a can like from Goya or somebody? Or is it made fresh?

      I thought if I could start a conversation about Goan food and sound like I knew something, I might get the good stuff and not the white girl special.

      Yeah, I don't think they are trying to tempt anyone and need encourangment. They are in the worst type of suburb. Besides dealing with the soccar mom set, there are a lot of other ethnicities like Latino, Philipino, etc who, if they go out for Indian food at all, want the familiar. I speak from experience with my Latino one day to be in-laws.

      Save me ... save me from yet more chicken tiki masala.

      1. re: rworange

        "Save me ... save me from yet more chicken tiki masala."

        i salute the attitude. if there were only more of you around ....
        one of the characteristics of north indian food - which is also one of the big reasons for it being a commercially viable restaurant cuisine - is that it is generous with ghee/oil, something the restaurants abuse, along with the heavy creamy gravies. an hour after you've eaten you're feeling as heavy as a warship and you're thirsty enough for fifty gallons.

        the trick to eating well is to get the grilled stuff for the meat and then beg for simple veg stuff: pili (yellow) daal, crisp tandoori roti, baingan bhartha (mashed smoked eggplant dish), alu gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), raita even if its not on the menu. they're all simple to make and the cook can accomodate you if hes's not too busy. see if they have sarson ka saag on the menu, with makki di roti. sarson ka saag is a wonderful greeny spinachy sorta thing which is reduced down by slooow cooking, and makki di roti is maize flour roti. its classic punjabi comfort food. hassle them if they don't have it on the menu.

        thats the dialogue you want to have.

        you will get the utmost respect if you know what vegetable dishes to order - therein lies the glory of all the cuisines of india.

        1. re: howler

          Thanks, useful tips, but I'm interested in smoking out the different. I gotta tell you I've had more lousy alu gobi than I care to remember. It is the same dishes in this area over and over and over ... and usually badly done. If there's a Goan spin on that dish though, that would be interesting to know about.

          1. re: rworange

            if they can't make standard punjabi alu gobi and they are punjabis, what luck do you think they are going to have making you vindalhoo? spices must be fresh, roasted, ground, goan or parsi vinegar must be found etc etc.

            have you ever eaten sarson ka saag.

            1. re: rworange

              Thanks again, Howler. These are all great tips and I started a separate thread.


              Eating Indian food in London where you are based is a different story than eating it in the SF Bay Area where I am based ... well at least directly around SF. You have no clue about the boring dreck and the sameness.

              It would be really cool if these great ideas that are more about smoking out great Indian food rather those specifically about Goan cuisine could get moved to the above link so more people could benefit from the tips. Either way, it is useful info, but I'm not sure how many people are going to read a post about Goan food and it seems a shame for that great info to get buried here.

          2. re: rworange

            Why don't you just ask them where they're from in India? That's where I start the conversation and then I can order accordingly.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              One of the first things I asked. In fact, when I got a vague answer of the North, even asking specific areas didn't get too much of a response.

              As I said in my SF post about the restaurant, given a little googling about this cuisine, I asked specifically if they made certain dishes and if they might carry feni in the future. Even wrote down the name on a piece of paper in case my pronunciation was wrong. THey had no clue what it was.

              I'm not really sure how they came up with the dishes they did on the menu. I'm suspecting it is just like someone selling New England clam chowder. They might not be from New England or know a thing about it, but they have the receipe.

              I just needed to have enough info to get to that conclusion. Oh, well.

            2. re: rworange

              rworange, I want to dine with you! I know we can strong-arm these places into giving us some spice & real food.
              (My usual approch is "Please make it spicy (as you would for yourself), and if it is too hot, I will pay you for it and then order something more mild and pay you for that as well."
              We actually had six guys from the kitchen come out to watch us eat in London when we did this in a little Indian takeout with three tables. One of them actually ran down the street to the market to get a variety of hot chillies, and they were floored when we got excited about it and ate 'em raw with our (dammit) curry. I felt like I was on some bizarre reality show.)
              But I'd love to try some Goan non-honky-special. If you have any success, I want to know!

          3. I always tend to think of dishes labelled as vindaloo in the US as a kind of generic flag for "prepared in a sauce that allows Americans to brag they like things hotter than we do"...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Karl S

              Almost every Indian restaurant in the U.S. has vindaloo, but it's almost never true Goan-style. In Goa a vindaloo is a reddish, spicy sweet & sour dish, and is often made with pork, as there are so many Christians. It's wonderful, and a pork adobado I recently had at a NY Poblano Mexican place was probably closer to it than any vindaloo in a NY indian restaurant. Most U.S. restaurant vindaloos seem to be basically brown "curries" with extra spice and maybe a little vinegar.


            2. I have no idea what Goa Fish Curry is _supposed_ to be like, but the one at the Gaylord in Menlo Park was pretty decadent. I liked it even better the next day (I insist on ordering too much and having leftovers), when the sauce struck me as tasting like coconut lobster bisque.

              1. Goan cuisine is very heavily influenced by the Portuguese and so you'll find things like thinner, vinegar based sauces, which are unheard of in northern India.


                2 Replies
                1. re: TexasToast

                  Thanks, exactly the type of info I was interested in ... should I ever run across a restaurant serving a lot of Goan dishes.

                  1. re: TexasToast

                    not really. while vinegar is certainly used, the great stuff is the ubiquitous use of coconut. from maharastra southwards you'll see plenty of coconut and from maharastra northwards you'll see other thickeners.

                    yet another reason why maharastrian food rocks.

                  2. Great topic, just wanted to say thanks for bringing it up. My SO is Portuguese, and has a budding love of Indian food. I discovered Goan recipes and we have had some really fabulous meals since!

                    You might also be interested in the food of Macau.