Gastro Goa: My Top 3 Foodie Picks for Herbivores and Carnivores Alike

It’ll come as no surprise that when we were researching our trip to India, the food was one of the major attractions. One of the major draws from my point of view was that 50% of the population or more is vegetarian, meaning that being a herbivore, India is possibly one of THE best places to visit. Secondly, the herbivore (me) and the carnivore (him) are massive spice fiends, often lacing even the dullest foods with enough chilli to sink a ship! For those of a sensitive tongue disposition, you’ll be glad to hear that our trip to India taught us that it’s not all about heat, though, as it’s all in the layering. Those seductive, evocative spices creep up on you and build on the palate, providing a taste sensation.

Even before a morsel has passed your lips and as soon as you land in India, you catch the subtlest wafts of cardamom, ginger and turmeric drifting on the slight breeze, which comes only very occasionally and leaves you craving more in the deep humidity of the day. Spices consume the air, from the stalls selling every type conceivable on street corners, to the food carts lining the road dishing up quick, tasty morsels and the heavier smells that drift from every restaurant.

There’s a lot of choice of food all over Goa with it being a well frequented travel destination and melting pot of cultures, all the way from Italian to Peruvian food, so there’s something to suit everyone if spices aren’t your thing. The bohemian beach shacks that line the sea shore offer up freshly caught seafood and Indian favourites such as Tandoori and Biriyani, which are simple but delicious.

Outside of the busy resorts and away from the commercialised beaches, there’s a burgeoning fusion food scene that is offering some truly world class gastronomy. We had some really tasty meals with one or two that rivalled some of our favourite restaurants around the world, so here’s a round-up of three of the best foodie experiences from the trip for very different reasons.

Top picks:

I-95, Saligao
This place is trendy and upmarket, with an open air restaurant and many dark, discreet corners for getting cosy with a cocktail and some friends. Most importantly the Southeast Asian fusion food is gorgeous and each dish is prepared to provide a visual feast. 

The meal starts with Mushroom Cappuccino soup (Wild forest mushrooms, truffle and porcini foam) served in test tubes, which feels very Heston Blumenthal.
The beginning: 
Herbivore (me): Crumbly french goat cheese, served warm with extra aged marinated beets, candied walnuts and salad mache’.
Carnivore (him): Claw meat crab cakes pan-fried in hand churned butter wasabi cream and oriental slaw

The Middle:
Herbivore: Penne Piquante: penne pasta with green chillis and grilled balsamic vegetables 
Carnivore: Individual Beef Wellingtons with smoked potato puree, garden veggies and Madeira jus
The end:
Herbivore: Deconstructed cheesecake with ginger biscuit base and peanut butter ice cream.
Carnivore: Deconstructed white chocolate panacotta with oat crumble

I can imagine all of the options are just as yummy though so go with a big group and order one of everything.  Also you must order the Pressure Cooler cocktail which is raspberry vodka muddled with grapes & apple juice topped with Sauvignon Blanc. Absolute heaven!

The Alcove, Little Vagator

This place is on the list mainly for the view which is unbeatable. It sits high on a cliff carved out of the rock, hence its name. Go late afternoon and enjoy some sundowners. As you sit sipping your strawberry daiquiri and watching people below frolicking in the surf, the sun puts on a marvellous display as day turns to night.

The sky glows purple, pink and orange with the sun seemingly hanging in the sky for ages burning a vivid amber colour. Only once you’ve enjoyed the view and dusk appears can you take your eyes off the view and concentrate on the feast in front of you.
Herbivores order the Tandoori Veg Platter to start, which is beyond yummy and actually just share it with the group as it is enormous! The larger than life spices dance on the tongue and if you’re not groaningly full and you manage to finish it, you’ll be sad to see the last piece go.
Order the Paneer dish for your main or as part of a tapas style feast with friends, you won’t be disappointed.

Carnivores and Pescatarians order the Red Snapper but leave the calamari unless you like it a little chewy. We couldn’t manage dessert so stuck to cocktails but the sundaes looked pretty lush.

The Night Market, Arpora
A different foodie experience to the restaurants above but fun for a different reason is Mackie’s Saturday Night Market. It covers three levels and is the biggest market in Goa, and the place to be with locals, expats and travellers all congregating here for an evening of fun and haggling. There are stalls selling beautiful fabrics, pashminas and jewellery that you’d pay ten times the price for from Anthropologie.

Other levels house outdoor bars with cool DJs and there is an entire area dedicated to street food. There is everything available from Greek gyros to Vietnamese dumplings and everything in between. Go with an empty belly and try a bit of everything. We loved the tortillas, stone baked pizzas, falafel wraps and sweet, melty, gooey chocolate churros, washed down with a couple of Kingfishers.
People either stand around with their greedily guarded gains or they sit at one of the communal tables, stick their yummy fayre in the middle and tuck in with friends or strike up conversations with strangers. It’s a very sociable place and even as a solo traveller this would be a great place to meet like-minded people. Once you’ve curbed your appetite, work it off with some more shopping or head to one of the bars and dance along to hypnotic beats or to cheesy rock at the main stage.
I couldn't possibly end this foodie post without mentioning the abundance of street food sellers that you see all over Goa, offering delicious local delicacies. Obviously use your judgment on the hygiene front and maybe stick to veggie food but there's an array of delicious offerings worth trying including fresh coconuts, sugar cane juice, fresh corn on the cob and Masala Chai and Masala Dosas, which deserve posts of their own once I've perfected a recipe!

Where's your favourite place in the world for vegetarian food or just food in general? Is there anywhere else in Goa you'd recommend visiting for a gastro food experience?

*Thanks to new friends for recommendations and to the restaurants for participating.

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