What comes to your mind when you hear, think or speak out loud “Goa”? The sun? The sand? The sea? Well, there is one more Goa; quainter, quieter, enriched with different experiences and definitely away from the party haunts and incessant downing of local (or branded) tipples.
Recently, yours truly was in the sunshine state to Rediscover Goa through more local experiences and soak in the offbeat side of the state which was once a Portuguese colony – until 1961. I will not digress and gabble or babble about the Goa liberation movement, that’s for another time. But I am here to make you vicariously live through my Goa experience, hoping you could add an experience or two and have a great Goan Holiday!
Goa – the land of adventures and susegad life and local experiences
Goan susegad life is much talked about but I sort of got a glimpse of this on this trip. Airbnb recently signed an MoU with the Department of Tourism Goa which aims at promoting inclusive tourism in the state. With the goal to foster homestay tourism with local Goan experiences, the week-long celebration, Rediscover Goa, kicked off and we had the first-hand experience of some of the unique offerings imbued with rich cultural heritage, culinary experiences, musical traditions and more.
The North and South of it
While we were putting up in North Goa, at gorgeous-looking homestays, we had local experiences lined up covering both the North and South districts of the state. I even visited villages which not many know of, ate at eateries that would usually not find a mention on the popular must-visit lists and indulged in food prepared with utmost care and locally sourced ingredients by award-winning chefs keeping the Goan tradition alive.
Lunch by the River
We set foot in the state and the first experience itself was of a great meal with a view at The Lazy Goose in Nerul. Overlooking the Nerul River, with boats docked, vibe set, the brunch spot has gained popularity in recent years. But one can say, it is still offbeat. I gobbled a plateful of bacon-wrapped chicken stuffed with spinach and mascarpone cheese with potato gnocchi pasta. The warm, comforting and delish meal instantly enveloped me with a sense of belonging that only Goa can offer.
On the side, I had a yummy cocktail concoction called Boat Face which had gin, passion fruit puree, kaffir lime and a dash of lime and mint. Drinking this, while sitting under an actual boat that’s upside down and used as an ornamental ceiling centrepiece, well, is a different experience.
Also, couldn’t start my Goan adventure without tucking into a lovely, warm plate of Bebinca. It was smokey and the right amount of sweet!
Food meets Storytelling at Edible Archives
For our next experience, we sat down for a five-course, specially curated meal with ingredients loved by locals, at Edible Archives. Tucked away in Kumbhar Vaddo in Anjuna, we were greeted by a happy doggo Molly and a night set against drizzling December rain with a table set in the balcao of an old Portuguese home.
Also Read: From Heritage Walks To Brewery Tour, Airbnb & Goa Tourism Launch A Week-Long Celebration Of Goa’s Cultural Diversity
Chef Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar and Shalini Krishan hosted us graciously; marrying storytelling with exceptional food. For the first course, we started off with an assortment of locally-made cheeses along with smoked chorizo that blew our minds. On the side were Goan Poee and Pao. They were fluffy and can be devoured on their own without any servings on the side, TBH.
The second course had a platter of sweet potatoes, kantkunke, madi and suran; all indigenous root vegetables that were given a unique twist by Chef Anumitra.
The many courses continued
The third course had Goan congee (Pez) which was made with local heirloom rice which people outside the state don’t even know of. It came with a side of red amaranth, baby mangoes in brine, some zingy garlic chutney and we were in heaven.
The fourth course was teffal-crusted duck and with kokum jus and roast vegetables. This was my first time trying a duck, so it was a foreign-yet-familiar taste. There were also sannas doing rounds at the table which were soft and fluffy. Not at all idli-like, but certainly appam-like. Overall, I was quite full from the previous courses, and I enjoyed this one a tad bit lesser than the rest.
The fifth course was, of course, dessert. And I have been a fan of Serradurra from my previous Goa trips, so I had to indulge in one. Even though I was full, I still devoured the whole portion served as there’s always room for dessert. Isn’t it?
Play with Clay
While the experience ideally should have been a Goa Clay Trail to traditional potteries in Bicholim, we somehow ended up at Nimmy Joshi’s workshop/home in Ucassaim in Bardez. The house was Pista green in colour and the workshop setup was in the garage. We played with clay, learning pinching and coiling as techniques and got super-engrossed in making our own masterpieces. Sad, we didn’t get to keep them. Details, here.
Dinner at a local favourite
For dinner, we headed to Blue Moon Restaurant in Aldona. Oh, the seafood fare was mouth-watering. We gorged on the best that the restaurant has to offer and we were soul-satisfied. It is sort of a gem for local Goans as they used to come all the way to this restaurant for family dinners. But now, thanks to tourism, the place has caught the fancy of younger crowds as well.
Farm-to-table Experience at C’est L’avi
Goan pride Chef Avinash Martins hosts a special Chef’s Table, C’est L’avi – Table in the Hills, at his ancestral home at Fatorpa. The exact location? Well, it will be revealed once you have booked your experience. But let me assure you, it will be a memorable, gastronomical and one helluva ride.
We savoured the following:
- Pao de quesso: served with kalchi kodi, tomato basil salsa
- Tender coconut carpaccio: solkadhi, leche de tigre, aam ras, fried quinoa
- Crab & Mushroom xec-xec bisque: xec-xec inspired French style bisque
- Spanakopita: red amaranths, roasted cashew butter
- Koyloleo: fermented black rice pancakes, prawns balchão or veg caldin
- Nest in the Woods: potato roësti nest, pulled chicken/soy cafreal, quail egg/cherry tomato
Main course options:
- Patra de goa: banana leaf wrapped sea bass, recheado verde, roasted pumpkin cashew hash, turmeric cauda
- Duck cabidel: smoked duck breast, cabidel sauce
- Coconut jaggery treacle
- Textures of Mushroom: mushroom galouti 2 ways, koji ambotik sauce
- Coconut jaggery cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, brandy snap
For dairy-free guests:
- Chocolate pôte de creme, coconut cream & cherry compote
Phewww and wowow! It is a very stimulating experience to have lunch at a farm, in the middle of nowhere (at least that’s how it feels), with great storytelling by Chef Avinash. The vivid colours, the layers, the textures, the tastes, the components, I can go on and on about it. But I won’t, you have to try it to experience that. Book it online. It costs Rs 5000 per person.
P.S. Table in the Hills is booked till January 2023. To try more of Chef’s offerings, you can even head to Cavatina in Benaulim, which is Chef Avinash’s first venture.
More details, here.
A Musical Treat
The evening was one of the most beautiful nights I have ever experienced, musically speaking. After a hearty meal at Chef Avinash’s farm, we ended up at Madragoa which is at CIPA – Centre for Indo-Portuguese Arts (which also houses Azulejos de Goa Gallery). Tucked inside a 250-year-old Indo-Portuguese home, restored in all its glory, it also has a small café called Cháfé Braz.
Fadista Sonia Shirsat sent the audience into a trance with Fada and Mando – a musical genre being kept alive in Goa. Fado is sung in Portuguese and Mando is sung in Konkani. Sonia has performed in 19+ countries and is a National Awardee.
Fun fact: Fado is also a part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
You have to hear it to believe it. And trust me, Fado and Mando speak directly to your soul.
You can check more details here.
For dinner, we all sat down at The Fisherman’s Wharf, the Panjim outlet. Yes, TFW is quite well-known and not very very offbeat. But, we had the most amazing local dishes. And, I personally had my fill of seafood on this whole trip that spanned over three days. Some experience!
I Rediscovered Goa through a new set of eyes: Quite Literally!
Oh, remember I said I saw Goa with a new set of eyes? Well, I caught you in a technicality there. I meant it metaphorically and physically as well. Metaphorically, it is indeed the side of Goa that people have less exposure to and may not have seen. Physically, all my previous Goa trips have been chunky spectacles due to abnormally high power in my eyes. So I have seen Goa pre-surgery – it’s beautiful, and Goa post-eye-surgery – and it’s even more beautiful!
If you are looking to do something different when in Goa, something offbeat, something more connected to the roots of the place, try any of these local experiences, that will keep you away from maddening crowds, raves and well, the usual, for sure! And, yeah, I personally feel this other side of Goa is more beautiful than the touristy one.
The author was invited for an experience by the Goa Tourism Department and Airbnb.