Dating back to the earliest days of European encounters with the subcontinent, many of India’s most acclaimed cooks and chefs have been Goan. Yet, the complex and many-layered foods born from that initial contact were never exalted like the other regional culinary traditions of India or Europe.

Through the first half of the 20th century, the Taj Mahal Hotel’s legendary Miguel Arcanjo “Masci” Mascarenhas was the undisputed king of the kitchens of Bombay, but that reputation was built on the soufflés and sauces of French cooking. His own favourite ambot-tik curries and sausage pulaos were consigned to being served at home-style joints and bare-basics nooks and crannies.

Goa has been an important crucible of culinary globalisation, long before the buzzword came into vogue. The intermingling has gone on for millennia, but it accelerated dramatically after the territory became the first European foothold in the subcontinent in 1510 (and also the last to be decolonised in 1961).

As Colleen Taylor Sen recounts in her Curry: A Global History:

“Goa was a key link in a chain of Portuguese forts and trading posts in the Persian Gulf, the Malacca Straits, Indonesia, India, Ceylon, Japan and South Africa [and beyond to Brazil]. In what is called the ‘Columbian exchange’, the territories of the Portuguese and Spanish empires (Portugal united with Spain in 1580) became the hub of a global exchange of fruits, vegetable, nuts and other plants between the western hemisphere, Africa, Oceania, and the Indian subcontinent.”  

Chilies, corn, tomatoes, potatoes and innumerable other produce flooded into India via Goa, permanently remaking everyone’s palettes in the country.

Reflecting those kaleidoscopic origins, Goan food is dazzlingly diverse. Influences derived from trading routes connecting to nearly every corner of the globe are juxtaposed with ingredients and techniques of the Konkan. This refinement, perfected over ages, has led Goans to reach a profound culinary consensus, a neat circular reasoning that operates like this – we make feijoada that is a version of the iconic Portuguese speciality, but we make it much better in Goa. Our bebinca is admittedly a version of the Filipino and Malaysian dessert, but we make it much better in Goa. The logic extends infinite. Insert the name of your favourite food here, and we make it better in Goa.

We hardly look at history of Food and cuisines and how it has shaped cultures, behaviour etc. But it is all so fascinating to read and dream about all this..