June 12, 2023
In 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, upon spotting Calicut’s coast after sailing around southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, reportedly proclaimed, “For Christ and spices!” After he landed, he became the first European to come by sea to India.
Da Gama’s arrival brought centuries of Indo-European trade: after the Portuguese, both the Dutch and British East India Companies established a foothold in the subcontinent. And while the Dutch and Brits would leave in 1825 and 1947, respectively, Goa, India’s smallest state, remained a Portuguese colony until 1961. Today, the state on the Konkan coast is a confluence of Portuguese methods and ingredients. But despite its vast array of dishes, Goa’s cuisine remains relatively unknown in the West beyond its poster child, vindaloo — the fiery curry that’s a fixture of airlines, supermarket aisles, and “adventurous” dining. Even fewer know where it comes from. In recent years, however, restaurateurs are proving that Goan food — vindaloo and beyond — is worthy of the spotlight.