By Sapna Girish Sardessai

Goan cuisine is quintessentially rooted in tradition and steeped in history. The authentic dishes have a touch of Portuguese, Hindu and Muslim influence, thanks to the rulers who were in Goa. Combinations of coconut, chillies, kokum and spices are used liberally to deliver tasty Goan classics.
Today, Goan kitchens showcase the traditional Goan flavours with a modern touch and chic plating — and give us a new perspective on what Goan food can be. There is tradition attached to every dish, no doubt, but what comes to the table has a distinct Goan flavour presented with a liberal dose of creativity.
The recipes shared in this article use every day, often locally grown vegetables and fruit. They are traditional in that sense but with a subtle difference in preparation styles and presentation, that instantly uplift the dish.

Ajwain Fritters

Ajwain leaves (Mexican Mint/Indian Borage) are locally referred to as ‘Vhoddlo Vottelanv’. Fritters made from these leaves make for a delicious savoury to be relished at tea time or as a side for lunch. The leaves are essentially known for their medicinal properties.

Ingredients: 12 Ajwain leaves; 2 cups besan (gram flour); ½ tsp. cumin powder; ½ tsp. chilli powder; ¼ tsp. turmeric powder; pinch of soda
bicarb; ¼ teaspoon sugar; salt to taste; oil for frying.


  • In a mixing bowl, add besan, cumin, chilli and turmeric powders, salt, sugar and soda bicarb. Add water, just enough to make the batter into a coating consistency, not liquidy.
  • Wash the Ajwain leaves, drain and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan. Dip the leaves in the batter ensuring that they are perfectly coated and gently drop into the hot oil, one by one. Fry till evenly brown on both sides. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Serve hot.

Dry Shrimp Sukem with Aubergine

Tiny shrimp, locally called ‘Gaalmo’ are cooked fresh or more often, dried and salted, either in a Kismur or in a Sukem. This recipe uses aubergine
which enhances the taste of this preparation.

Ingredients: ½ cup dried,  salted shrimp; 2 medium-sized aubergines, chopped; 1 large onion, chopped; 1 tsp. chopped coriander leaves; 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise & halved; 2½ tbsps. freshly grated. coconut; ½ tsp. coriander seeds; ¼ tsp black peppercorns; marble-sized ball of tamarind; ¼ tsp xacuti masala; ½ tsp. chilli powder; ¼ tsp. turmeric powder; ¼ teaspoon sugar; salt to taste; 1 tbsp. oil.


  • Clean, wash and drain the shrimp. Set aside.
  • Grind together the coriander seeds and peppercorns. Add the coconut and tamarind and coarsely dry grind further.
  • In a kadai, mix together the shrimp, onion, green chillies and aubergine.
  • Add the ground coconut, the powders, sugar and salt to taste. Combine all these ingredients with the oil. Add very little water. Cover and allow to cook on low heat, placing some water on the lid.
  • Once the water on the lid evaporates, check the onion. It has to turn translucent. The consistency has to be dry. Garnish with coriander leaves, to serve.

Radish Leaf Kismur

Locally called ‘Mulleachi Kismur’, this a salad made from radish leaves which is healthy, nutritious and easy to prepare, and is a fresh variation from the usual preparation of this vegetable

Ingredients: 5-6 radish leaves, finely chopped;
½ cup freshly grated coconut; 1 onion, finely
chopped; 1 green chilli, finely chopped; ½ tsp.
lime juice; sugar & salt to taste; 1 tsp ghee.


  • Heat ghee in a kadai and lightly sauté the onion. Add the radish leaves and sauté further.
  • Add the green chilli and the grated coconut. Combine and immediately take off heat. Coconut needs to only be warmed, not cooked.
  • Add the sugar, salt and lime juice. Combine.

Steamed Jackfruit Cake

Dhonas, as it is known locally, is a jackfruit cake made in a ring-shaped traditional oven, heated on the stove on a bed of sand. This recipe is a steamed variation of the same and turns out just as delicious.

Ingredients: 1 cup broken wheat; 2 cups semolina; 4 cups blended jackfruit pulp; 1½ cups jaggery; 1 cup grated coconut; 2 tbsps. chopped cashew nuts OR ½ cup boiled peanuts; 1 turmeric leaf, chopped fine; ½
sachet Eno fruit salt; 2 tbsps. Ghee; salt to taste.


  • Roast the broken wheat in a kadai till it changes colour. Set aside. Roast 2 cups semolina. Set aside. Combine both in a pan and add the jackfruit pulp, jaggery, coconut, salt, chopped cashew nuts /peanuts and haldi leaves. Cook on low heat. Add the ghee. Keep stirring till the mixture is nice and thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Place a ring in water in an idli cooker/steamer and allow it to boil, covered.
  • Add half sachet of Eno to the Dhonas mixture and combine. Transfer the contents into a greased cake tin. And steam in the idli cooker for approximately 40 mins. Remove. Allow to cool completely and upturn. You may brown it a bit in the microwave/oven, post-steaming, if you so prefer.

Potato in Coconut-Ginger Gravy

When you speak of a Potato Bhaji in Goa, it is usually a dry preparation, with or without onion. This recipe makes for a potato gravy, infused with the distinct flavour of ginger that makes it so refreshingly different.

Ingredients: 3 medium-sized potatoes, boiled, de-skinned and cubed; 1 small tomato, cubed; one ½ inch piece ginger; 1 tsp. chopped coriander leaves; 1 green chilli; 3 tbsps. freshly grated coconut; ½ tsp. each of cumin & mustard seeds; ¼ tsp. coriander seeds; marble-sized ball of tamarind; ½ tsp. chilli powder; ¼ tsp. turmeric powder; ¼ teaspoon sugar; salt to taste; 1 tbsp.  ghee.


  • Grind together grated coconut, piece of ginger, green chilli and turmeric powder with hot water, to a fine paste. Set aside with the grinding liquid.
  • Heat ghee in a kadai, add cumin and mustard seeds. Add asafoetida. Add chopped tomato and one sliced green chilli. Sauté. Add the potato. Sauté. Add salt and sugar to taste. Add the ground coconut. Combine. Adjust consistency with the grinding liquid. Allow it to come to a slow boil. Remove from heat.
  • Add chopped coriander leaves.

Turnip Raita

‘Gaddyache Raite’ is what you could call this dish colloquially. Turnip shells are often just discarded but in this innovative chutney, they taste so delicious, you will never discard them again. Some lessons are to be learnt!

Ingredients: 3/4 cup turnip shells; ½ cup grated coconut; 1 tsp. each fenugreek & mustard seeds; 1 tsp. urad dal; 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise; 1 marble-sized ball of tamarind; 1 tbsp. jaggery; 2 cashew nuts; salt to taste; 1 tbsp. ghee.


Roast the turnip shells, coconut, green chillies, cashew nuts, urad dal, fenugreek and mustard seeds, one by one, in ghee. Keep a couple of fleshy turnip shells aside and grind the rest to a smooth chutney with tamarind, salt, jaggery and a little water. Chop the turnip shells you had set aside and use as a garnish.

Stuffed Gherkins

Gherkins are called ‘tendli’ in Konkani and stuffed gherkins is ‘Bharilli Tendli’. This spicy main dish is a take-off on the stuffed aubergine, which is the usual favourite, and uses crushed roasted peanuts to enhance the taste.

Ingredients: 12 gherkins; 1 large onion; 1 tomato; 1 potato, deskinned; 1 tsp. garam masala powder; 1 tsp. chilli powder; ½ tsp. turmeric powder; 1 kashmiri red chilli, 4-5 dry red local chillies; handful of roasted peanuts; 4 garlic flakes; 2 green chillies; coriander leaves; jaggery & salt to taste, 2 tbsps. oil.


  • Make star-shaped incisions in the gherkins and immerse in cold water. Finely chop onions, tomato and green chilli. Coarsely
    crush the peanuts. Chop coriander leaves. Cut the potatoes into wedges and immerse in cold water. Set all aside.
  • Roast together grated coconut, part onion,
    part tomato, garlic flakes, Kashmiri red chilli, dry red chillies, garam masala, chilli and turmeric powders. Grind together to a coarse paste with very little warm water and tamarind. Transfer the ground paste into a dish. Add water to the grinding jar and collect the residue. To the paste, add the remaining onion and tomato, green chilli,
    salt, jaggery and crushed peanuts and stuff into the drained gherkins.
  • Heat oil in a pan and sauté the potato wedges. Place the stuffed gherkins. Add the remaining ground masala and grinding liquid. Cover with water placed on the lid and allow to cook on low heat. Gently stir once. Add a little fresh cream (optional) and cook till done. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Sukem Khathkhatem

This is a dry or semi-dry preparation made of assorted vegetables that are in season and interestingly uses hogplums or bilimbis as a souring agent.

Ingredients: Cubed seasonal vegetables (pumpkin, ridge gourd, corn, radish, cucumber, sweet potato, breadfruit, raw banana, carrot); 4-5 hog plums (deskinned) or bilimbis (chopped); 4 green chillies; 1.5 cups grated coconut; sugar to taste; 6 black peppercorns; 1 tbsp. mustard seeds; 2 tbsps. oil; salt to taste.


  • Coarsely grind together the grated coconut with green chillies and peppercorns.
  • Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the cubed vegetables, hog plums and the ground coconut. Add the sugar and salt and combine. Add about 3 cups water. Allow to cook on low heat, placing water on the lid, till the vegetables soften. Adjust taste (this dish is essentially sweet, sour and spicy). Consistency could be semi dry to dry.

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