Not unnaturally, after 451 years of colonization, Goan cooking absorbed a strong Portuguese influence – palm vinegar (unknown elsewhere in India), copious amounts of coconut, tangy kokum and fierce local chillies also play their part. Goa is the home of the famous vindaloo (from the Portuguese vinho d’alho, literally “garlic wine”), originally an extra-hot and sour pork curry, but now made with a variety of meat and fish. Other pork specialities include spicy chouriço sausages, sorpotel, a hot curry made from pickled pig’s liver and heart, leitao, suckling pig and balchao, pork in a rich brown sauce. Another traditional Goan Catholic dish is mutton xacuti, made with a sauce of lemon juice, peanuts, coconut, chillies and spices. The choice of seafood, often cooked in fragrant masalas, is excellent – clams, mussels, crab, lobster, giant prawns – while fish, depending on the type, is either cooked in wet curries, grilled, or baked in tandoori clay ovens. Sanna, like the south Indian iddli, is a steamed cake of fermented rice flour, but here sweetened with palm toddy. Sugar fiends will adore bebinca, a rich, delicious solid egg custard with coconut.
As for drinks, locally produced wine, spirits and beer are cheaper than anywhere in the country, thanks to lower rates of tax. The most famous and widespread beer is Kingfisher, which tastes less of glycerine preservative than it does elsewhere in India, but you’ll also come across pricier Fosters, brewed in Mumbai and nothing like the original. Goan port, a sweeter, inferior version of its Portuguese namesake, is ubiquitous, served chilled in large wine glasses with a slice of lemon. Local spirits – whiskies, brandies, rums, gins and vodkas – come in a variety of brand names for less than Rs50–150 a shot, but, at half the price, local speciality feni, made from distilled cashew or from the sap of coconut palms, offers strong competition. Cashew feni is usually drunk after the first distillation, but you can also find it double-distilled and flavoured with ginger or cumin, producing a smooth liqueur.