The world is moving towards slow tourism – where travellers aim to experience a land as a its locals. Why is this fun? Since no local has ever seen their homeland through the eyes of a tourist, their experiences are spontaneous and raw. Take Goa, for instance. Most tourists think that all Goans love their alcohol and beaches. Not everyone is aware of the Goan hinterlands, the local Goan vegetarian food and the tiny Goan villages that can truly enhance your time in Goa.
No one’s blaming the tourist. Goa thrived off of its mainstream tourism for a long time, and continues to do so. However, fast tourism has caused more harm than good and it is time to change Goa’s narrative. There is no better way to explore Goa than to get insights from its locals. That’s why, Soul Travelling decided to ask its ambassadors what they like about their home state.
Soul Travelling’s ambassadors come from all over Goa. The best part – not all of them live in a coastal village. Some of them are far away from the closest beach and yet, they love their state just the same. Why? Because there are so many things to love about Goa. Keep reading to find out:
A lot of people ask Soul Travelling’s teams for recommendations on what to eat in Goa. Since Goa is a coastal state, its no secret that Goan seafood stands out.
“The staple diet of Goans includes Xit (rice), Kodi (curry) & nuste (fish) which is my favourite as well”, says Nandini. “Apart from this, I love Bangdyachi uddamethi (gravy item prepared with mackerels), Ukdya tandalache godshe (sweet dish from unpolished rice, jaggery, grated coconut, cinnamon & mung beans) & bharleli tora (pickled raw mangoes in brine).” Pratik reminds us that all of this can taste better with some Feni or Urrak.
On the internet, the recommendations for most popular dishes in Goa are usually limited to seafood-based platters which make vegetarian tourists feel excluded. While Goa’s seafood dishes are definitely drool-worthy, they’re not the only thing that locals eat. You won’t believe this, but a lot of Goans are actually vegetarians!
Vegetarian Food in Goa
Pankaj Kamble, for instance, loves khatkhatem and mangane. These are two of the most popular seasonal specialities of Goa. If you are looking for Goan vegetarian food, the khatkhatem won’t fail to delight you. It’s made during the monsoon in Goa, specially for Ganesh Chathurthi. This delightfully creamy curry contains more than 20 seasonal vegetables and is a joy to eat. Mangane on the other hand is a local vegan dessert made of coconut milk, jaggery, sago and lentils. It’s a decadent dessert with a thick creamy texture and a subtle sweetness. You can’t just stop at one serving!
But again, Goan cuisine is a master of surprises and you’ll be surprised to know that cafreal and vindaloo are European influences.
Portuguese Cuisine in Goa
If you look at Goan food, it’s not just coastal Konkan food. A large part of Goan cuisine also includes some Portuguese-inspired dishes.
“I love rissóis de Camarão (pastries with a creamy prawn stuffing), Sorpotel (spicy pork cooked in its own fat), Bolo (Goan cake) and Espetada de Porco (grilled pork)”, says Frazer Andrade. He lives in Margao – Goa’s bustling commercial capital.
Yannisa also adds Prawn Balchao to her list of favourites. This exquisite delicacy of pickled prawns definitely deserves all the fame!
“You cannot leave without trying Chicken Cafreal and Bebinca too!” While they have become quite mainstream, these Portuguese-inspired dishes in Goa have not gone out of style.
Goan food as the locals know it is an amalgamation of some very unique and distinct cooking practices. You may associate fish thali with Goa, but to the locals, the state’s cusine goes so much deeper and one worth exploring.
What are the best places to visit in Goa?
Speaking of exploring, if you ask Google or a tourist for recommendations on places to visit in Goa, they will give you a very mainstream list. If you ask a local where they like to hang out in Goa, you get all the offbeat destinations.
“I love visiting the Kushavati River in Chandor and Churches in Old Goa since I am a hard-core fan of Goa’s Christian Art heritage. I work hard towards preserving it for posterity”, says Frazer Andrade.
Nandini on the other hand loves the Shri Laxmi-Narsimha temple in Veling, Mardol. She says, “This place is unique, with peaceful ambience, green surroundings & it is full of positive vibes. I always feel fresh, relaxed & rejuvenated when I visit this beautiful temple in Goa.”
When Yannisa had to list her favourite spot in Goa, she spoke of her love for the mountains and how she loves trekking through the Sahyadris in the extreme south. Needless to say, this should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Goa!
“I love spending my weekends at Varca or Benaulim beach with my family”, says Pankaj; Bob, who lives in Sinquerim brags about how there’s an amazing sunset point right behind his home.
Spending time in Goa is like gifting yourself peace and relaxation. You could be doing nothing, and yet, you would be having a good time.
The Famous Goan Stereotypes – are they really true?
Some would say that Goa’s stereotypes come from truth. The ambassadors at Soul Travelling have heard all kinds of assumptions around Goa and Goans. Here are a few:
Pratik Joshi for instance has heard some curious questions such as “Do you guys always drink?” or “You must be going to the beach every day, right?” and “Do all Goans eat Pork and Beef?” Not to forget the infamous question, “Your life must be a vacation, right?”
Well, to put your curiosity to rest, the answer is a resounding “no”. Most Goans hold day jobs where they are not allowed to drink. Some others prefer not to consume alcohol. Apart from that, locals who hold certain beliefs may choose to not eat meat.
Yannisa has also heard someone assume that Goans start drinking at an early age. Well, no. We’re not Europeans!
“A lot of tourists from around the world believe that Goa is known for its drugs”, adds Nandini. “Drugs aren’t inherently a part of Goan culture and it’s not something that is encouraged or legalised in the state. Tourists who come here to get high should be mindful of that.”
It’s a sad reality that Goa has become famous for all the things it’s not. Once in a while, try steping outside the box and experiencing the true beauty of Goa. And to answer your question, no there is never any truth to stereotypes.
Things you did not know about Goa
Since the general idea at Soul Travelling has been to introduce unknown facts about Goa, the ambassadors were asked to list a few fun facts about Goa. So here are a few things you may not know about Goa:
- Goa was not just a part of the Portuguese administration. Before that, it was part of several different kingdoms, including the Maratha rulers and the Bijapur Sultanate.
- The name ‘Goa’ was derived from two words. ‘Go’ from Gomantak, Govapuri, Gopakapatnam etc, and ‘oa’ from Lisboa, the capital of Portugal. Hence ‘Goa’ was created as a fusion of both these words.
- The original settlers of Goa are Kunbis, Gawdas, Velips & Dhangars who are really simple & hardworking people. If we look at their occupations we realize that they are self-sustainable. Recent developments might have brought changes in the life of these communities but their existence in itself is evidence for the strong & hard life of Goa’s ancestors.
- Goa has the highest per capita income in India.
- Some of India’s oldest rocks are found in Goa. Places, where one can find them, are Mollem and Anmod.
- Before religion, Goans follow the concept of Goenkarponn. You are a Goan first and then you are a Goan Hindu, Goan Catholic or Goan Muslim.
What’s the best time to be in Goa?
You might be thinking that we’d list the best time to be in Goa. However, the locals love all seasons equally and according to them, the best time to visit Goa should depend on what you plan to do there.
“I love Goa during Ganesh Chathurti, Diwali and Christmas”, chimes Pankaj. “I wait for the monsoons because I love visiting the waterfalls!”, adds Yannisa.
According to Pratik, if you want Urrak, visit Goa in March; if you want to go on treks, June-July is the best time to visit Goa; and if you are someone whose favourite artist is playing at a fest in Goa, it’s probably happening in November-December.
Lastly, Bob mentions how monsoons in Goa have always been a time when everyone went back to school and met all their friends. Just for the sentimental value of it, he has always loved this time in Goa.
There is so much to be discovered about Goa and mainstream tourism takes you away from the very essence of the state. So next time, before hopping into a cab, consider renting a vehicle; before heading to the beach, book a guided experience in the hinterlands; and once you’ve downed a hearty fish thali, order something new from the menu.