waters of the Arabian Sea. It is the smallest of all the states in India, and has the fourth smallest population (1.4 million). Goa spent more than 450 years under Portuguese rule, an influence that is still evident today. There are numerous Catholic churches and cathedrals all over Goa, all thanks to the Portuguese. The landscape of the state is unlike any other region of India. Goa is lush, green, peaceful and populated by some of the most gently relaxed people in India. Oh, and there are more than 100 miles of almost unbroken beaches. Goa may just be the perfect Indian destination.
Now let’s step away from the practical aspects of Goa, and highlight some of the delightful gastronomic elements. First of all, and for the most part, do not go to hotel or resort restaurants looking for an authentic meal. For a really good Indian meal, head for the food shacks on the beach. The food is fresh, hearty, homemade and exceedingly good. Staples of the Goan diet are rice and seafood, so a common delicacy among the beach shacks is Kingfish in garlic – yet there is a strong Portuguese influence in the flavors. One can also find lovely curries of shark, mackerel and tuna. Like traditional Portuguese cuisine, shellfish is a popular. Prawns, crab, squid and mussels are caught fresh daily, and tossed into the morning cooking pot.
For some, the thought of an authentic Indian curry invokes visions of a flaming mouth and smoke shooting out of one’s ears. Indeed some Indian curries are very, very hot. Thankfully, the masterful beach shack cooks are well aware of the differing palates of their clients, and do their best to make your dish exactly to your liking. They genuinely care how you like their food, even checking in to see how the meal is going. Eating at a beach shack may involve meager surroundings and a certain level of informality, but it will be the best meal and the best service anywhere.
Aside from the beaches, the food, the ancient cathedrals and the culture, there is one other thing Goa is known for: feni. Feni is an alcoholic drink made either from the cashew-apple tree or the sap of the coconut tree. The Portuguese are credited with bringing feni to Goa, or at least the technique for making it. It is a strong spirit, containing up to 43% alcohol and can be drunk straight or used in cocktails. It is definitely not for everyone, as the taste is very strong – unlike any other type of spirit.
Goa is unlike any other part of India – in culture, cuisine, drink and landscape. Explore this beautiful part of the world, taking time to visit the beach shacks and sip a bit of feni along the way.
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Jamie Matzke represents Diamond Resorts International – a leader in worldwide vacation resort destinations. Come join us in Goa at one of our premier vacation resorts in India where you can experience the local culture and cuisine in a luxury environment.