Cuisines of West India
The western India comprises of some of the largest states of India, which are Rajasthan, the largest state; Maharashtra, the 3rd largest; Gujarat the 7th largest state and the small state of Goa. A vast coastline, the aravali hills, the Western Ghats and the arid desert, all vary with the climatic conditions and hence the food too varies a lot which can sustain you in that climate. Sweets, snacks and fish are the famous dishes from this area.
From fiery hot to mild and pure vegetarian to complete non vegetarian, cuisine of western India has a huge variety. While the people of Goa are near to fully non vegetarian people, Gujaratis are essentially vegetarian. While the food from Rajasthan and some regions of Maharashtra is fiery hot, the food from Goa and Gujarat is mild and also with a bit of sweet taste. Gujarat has prohibition on alcohol, and in contrast, Maharashtra has some of the best vineyards of India with Nashik.
Food of the Goenkar
A person from Goa calls himself a Goenkar, and his staple diet is fish, rice and coconut! All three are in abundance in the area. Food from Goa has its distinct taste with influence from Maharashtra and a very big influence of the Portuguese cuisine on its local eating habbits. Portuguese ruled Goa till recently and have left with a heavy impact in the Goan cuisine.
Kokum, a plum like fruit, sour in taste, fresh and dried variety, both ways is used in the Goan cooking. It gives a pungent sour taste to all the dishes and also soothes the body from the humid climate. The Solkadhi, a mild drink using coconut milk with Kokum is a big time soother. Today the sweetened juice of kokum with a dash of soda is equally famous all over India. Another important fruit used by the Goans in its various forms is the Cashew nut. The fruit as well as the nut is widely used in Goan cooking. Cashew nuts are sprinkled in many vegetables and non-vegetarian dishes. One of the most unique dishes of Goa is the Kaju – watan usal. A light gravy based dish made from non-dried cashew nuts with peas. The cashew fruit is normally eaten as a fruit, and the famous local wine called the Feni is made from this fruit.
Fish preparations like the fried fish in most varieties of Pomfret, Bombay duck, mackerel, shrimps etc are regularly eaten. Equally liked are the coconut gravy based fish dishes. Shark fins, crabs and shell fish are a delicacy. Chicken lamb and pork is equally liked but more so in the Portuguese cuisine. The Xacuti and the Vindaloo are some of the most known dishes from Portuguese Goan cuisine.
Goa has some very special sweets made at home using mainly rice, coconut, jaggery and cashewnuts. Some of famous sweets are the Patoli, (rice flour paste, smeared on turmeric leaves filled with jaggery and coconut), cashewnut Laddoos, khaje and the Sakharbhat (sweet rice). The Portuguese influence has dished out a wonderful sweet called the Bebinca made from layers of rice flour, eggs and jaggery, apart from regular cakes and pastries.
Wines form an essential part of the Goan culture. Many ladies have this guarded secret and make wines at home and serve them only during celebrations or festivity. Feni, the famous rice / cashew liquor, is Goa’s forte. No other place in India makes Feni. Equally famous is the Goa’s port wine.But the local wines made by house wives, with the secret passed on through generations are amazingly tasty. Wines are made of apple, banana or any fruit. One of the rare wines is the wine made of beetle leaves.