In the book “Susegad: The Goan Art of Contentment”, author Clyde D’Souza takes us on a journey through Goa’s beautiful beaches, lush greenery, exquisite cuisine, mix of Portuguese and Konkani culture, its history, festivals, music and architecture.
‘Susegad’ is a Konkani word that has no exact translation in English. Goans use it to convey the sense of contentment, fulfilment and relaxation that everyone associates with Goa and its culture.
From the book, we can learn what makes Goans tick and how they’ve created habits and routines that lend happiness and calm to their lives, and this would help us find our own susegad.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
‘Jevan’, the Konkani word for food, is pronounced with a roll of the tongue, such that the latter part of the word (van) sounds like ‘on’. Food plays a vital part in the Goan way of life. The comfort of a tangy kingfish curry or spiced chicken cafreal can soothe the spirit like no other. Growing research from scientists, wellness professionals and spiritual gurus has shown that a happy gut is a key factor to being happy. What you eat directly affects your mood and your way of life. The gut talks to the brain, which releases serotonin, also known as the ‘happy chemical’. And from personal experience I can tell you that Goan food makes you happy! For most tourists, the first picture that comes to mind when they think of Goa is the beach, a beer and fish curry rice. People visiting Goa on holiday usually have one agenda—eat, drink, sleep, repeat. The attraction of this kind of holiday draws about 60 lakh tourists to Goa every year. It’s worth noting that this is four times the number of the local population! Of these, about 6 lakh are foreign visitors (especially Europeans and Russians), some of whom stay for up to six months in a year. While Goa is synonymous with good food and good times, the local Goenkar is one with simple dietary needs.
They are not concerned with eating vindalho or the beach shack favourite, butter garlic kingfish, every day. If there is any diet that has been trendy in Goa, it’s the seasonal diet. For centuries, Goans have respected the seasons in their lifestyles and eaten according to what is available and fresh at that time of the year. The uniqueness of Goan cuisine is also a delicious blend of Konkan and multi-continental cultures. The popular carne de vinhad’alhos, which literally means ‘meat in garlic and wine marinade’, is today enjoyed by Goans on special occasions as pork vindalho, with the wine replaced by coconut vinegar. As ships traversed to and from various Portuguese colonies, they transformed dishes like galinhapiripiri from Mozambique into the thick, green spiced chicken cafreal. Goa’s Queen of Desserts, bebinc, is rumoured to have been named after a Portuguese nun, Sister Bibiana, who lived in Old Goa. The seven-layered firm custard is cooked through an elaborate process and was meant to symbolize seven hillocks in Lisbon and Old Goa. Even the most famous mango in the world, Alphonso, is named after a Duke of Goa, Afonso de Albuquerque. We’ll delve deeper into this story a little later in the book. While the Portuguese brought spices, tomatoes and cashews to the table, the natives added local flavours such as coconut vinegar, kokum and tamarind. These shine through in the food, particularly in the curries and cafreal that all the beach shacks and restaurants serve. But there’s more to Goan cuisine than the food that’s become so popular at these eateries. The food that locals cook and eat at home flows with the time of day and the particular season.
Favourite Goan Foods as per the Season
While most vegetables and beans are available through the year, Goans enjoy some foods and fruits that are popular as per the season.
- Mangoes, karvanda, jackfruit, cashew fruit
- Urrak, to drink
- Pipryos (local cucumber)
The monsoon is breeding season and fishing is banned. So, Goans enjoy preserved goodies.
- Pickled mangoes or kismur (dried prawns)
- Dried mackerel
- Shellfish (tisryo) and crabs
- Wild vegetables (mushroom, tambdi, amaranth leaves)
- Feni, to drink
- Fresh fish
- Lady’s finger
- Watermelon, jamun
- Leftover Christmas and New Year sweets to break all your New Year resolutions!
Favourite Goan Ingredients
If you want to add a touch of Goan taste to your home food, these are some ingredients that Goans love:
- Coconut (juice, desiccated, toddy)
- Palm jaggery
- Ghosali (bottle gourd)
- Kille (tender bamboo shoots)
- Almi mushroom (found in the monsoons in forest areas)
- Variety of wild leaves: alu, drumstick and tambdi
- Orange flower from the pumpkin and dudhi plant
- Xacuti masala—best with chicken
- Caldine masala—best with prawn or chicken
- JeereMeere masala—best with fish or chicken
- Ambotik masala—best with shark fish
- Racheado masala—best with mackerel or prawn
- Cafreal masala—best with chicken
- Balchao—great for preserving meat
Vegetarians can use tofu, paneer or half-ripe cashew fruit to enjoy these curries.
The Sound of Poee
If there is one thing other than xitt-kodi (curry-rice) that Goans love, it’s the humble bread, or what is known as poee. The day in Goa begins with poee. Long before baking fresh bread became an Instagram trend, Goans have been relishing the humble poee. The city dweller may wake up to the sound of a phone alarm, to thoughts of beating traffic and ways to tackle the day’s to-do-list. But a typical day for those living in Goa begins with the sound of poee—which is freshly baked bread known as pao in most other states—being delivered. As the sun rises over the Sahyadri Ghats, illuminating the tiny state, a gentle sound wakes up the people. From the hills to the by-lanes and the beaches, Goa awakens to the sound of warm, freshly baked poee on its way to their homes. It is a lovely sound that can just about be heard at every window. Goans wake up to the gentle honk of the poder’s (baker’s) horn, which signals the arrival of the delivery boy distributing poee. The delivery of the pao signals the beginning of the day. Starting your day with the comfort of freshly baked bread sets the pace for the rest of the day and can put you in a gentle state of mind. Poee is made by the padeiro or the Goanpoder. Fermented using local toddy, poee comes in different shapes and textures. The kankda (bangle shaped) is a hard bread, perfect for dipping in your morning tea. The katricho pao (scissors-shaped) and the undo (thick) pao are everyone’s favourite as they are soft and spongy. They are eaten at meals to soak up thick curries. Whoever buys the bread knows the family’s preferences and buys enough fresh poee for a day’s breakfast and dinner. At lunch, most households tend to eat rice.
For the Love of Rice Curry
If there’s anything a Goan loves more than poee, it’s xitt. This love comes from the ubiquitous and heart-warming combination of xitt-kodi (rice curry) that is a staple in all Goan households. Rice is the trusty sidekick of kingfish curry, the stable balance to a spicy vindalho and the comfort in a breakfast canjee. Most Goan households love their ukdetandul, which is commonly known as parboiled brown rice. Ukdetandul is boiled with the husk on; then put out to dry. This gives it brown streaks when cooked. The sight of hot curry poured over a generous mound of this fat-grained rice is the kick-starter for a good mood and happiness. There are twenty-eight traditional varieties of rice grown in Goa, from white rice to red rice. Locals favour rice varieties like korgut, assgo and muno. Whatever the variety of rice, Goans prefer to have it ukdetandul, which is parboiled with the husk on. This process is known for imparting a good amount of fibre, and has the benefit of providing more than fifteen vitamins. It lowers inflammation, which is good for gut health and metabolism. Rice is not only consumed as a staple at lunch or dinner, but is also enjoyed in canjee for breakfast and in some desserts. Tradition and taste evolved over centuries have resulted in different grains being used for different recipes and courses.