Goans are known for their ‘sheet kodi nustea’ (fish curry rice) and if you’re in Goa, a fish thali rice is a must. Neshwin Almeida gives you eight reasons to eat a Goan fish thali, which unlike a South Indian one consists of fewer items but will nevertheless blow your mind with its mix of spices and rice.
Boiled rice: Insist on some good big Goan unpolished rice. It is unlike the Basmati or Sona Masuri rice and does not get soggy when soaked with Goan coconut curry. Leave aside the etiquette and the cutlery and eat with hands. One can also order for a kanji, which is boiled rice soup which tastes amazing with green chutney and goes perfectly with the thali.
Kismur: Though the main course is dominated by seafood and massive portions of fried fish, always insists on kismur, which is a coconut salad of freshly grated coconut with tawa fried galmo (dried prawns) mixed with turmeric, chilly powder, coconut oil and golden brown onions. The salty taste of the dried prawns with fresh coconut milk is simply mouth-watering. The variants of kismur are the tiny, one centimeter fresh prawns or dried mackerel but the kismur has to be boneless and soaked in tamarind. Don’t get confused as some restaurants also call it sukhe.
Kodi: The Goan curry has many variants. The best one is the uman (Konkani term) cooked by simmering golden fried onions, tomatoes and coconut oil with a ross (coconut milk mix) blended together with coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and Kashmiri chilies. Served hot, the uman has a tangy taste. Uman with Kingfish (surmai), prawn curry or tuna is simply delicious.
Another variant of uman is prawn caldin which is a mild Goan curry cooked with prawns and turmeric sans the tamarind. If you’re vegetarian, a nice French beans or lady finger uman is a perfect treat when poured on your rice.
Sukhem: The tisreo sukhem in Goa is cooked with clams, also called tisreo which are used widely in Konkani cooking. There are many types of clams used in cooking. One is called ‘tisre’ or ‘shenani’ in Konkani. It has many lines on the shell. Another type is called ‘khubbe’, which doesn’t have the lines. A third type is called ‘kalva’, found in big stones near the sea shore. Sukhem is a dry dish cooked with Goan sambhar powder, green chillies, jaggery, garam masala, desiccated coconut and tamarind pulp which is cooked till most of the water evaporates. The clam stew is a soft scrumptious side dish that adds to the flavours of the fish thali.
Poee: For those who do not like rice, the perfect substitute to the thali is the oven-baked butterfly-shaped Goan bread called poee. It is baked in a traditional earthen oven and coated with rusk. Though the poee is perfect to eat with pork sorpotel and chickemn xacutti, poee with atoilo kodi (one day old coconut curry thickened and eaten with Goan bread) is appetizing and makes your Goan thali lighter.
Sol kodi: This is a special coconut milk mixed with kokum Juice and garnished with finely-chopped coriander which works as a digestive. Sweet, tangy and a little pungent, sol kodi is simply awesome to drain down the Goan fish thali. Always insists on it in your platter.
Fried fish: The most essential ingredient of the Goan fish thali is the rava fried or red chilly masala with vinegar-fried Kingfish, reef cod, Indian salmon, mangrove red snapper, black pomfret, giant sea perch, sole or mullet. The slice of fish sprinkled with lime and eaten with a little green salad is the soul of the thali.
Pickle: No Goan meal is complete without mango pickle with tender mangoes soaked and
crushed with salt and stored in an earthen pot. For those who like a spicy version of the same pickle, try the mango pickle fried with asafoetida, peppercorns, mustard seeds and sesame seed oil. Another treat and appetizing pickle is the prawn balchao made of dry prawn cake cooked with oil and dried mackerels soaked in dried Kashmiri chillies, ginger, garlic and three bottles vinegar which is fried till crisp and eaten with rice.
Don’t forget to order the Goan cashew feni or seasonal cashew urak with a dash of salt and a fizzy lemonade mix to complete your meal. Another add on to the thali could be a starter of batter-fried calamari (squid) with tartar sauce and some spicy ragi papadums with a tomato and onion salad.
Places to try the Goan fish thali
- Ritz Classic at Panjim, located at 18 June Road, near Panjim Church. If you are a group of 3-4 people, then order the fish platter along with fish curry rice, which is a selection fish available with them.
- Tilve Lunch Home near Mahalaxmi temple, Bandora. Ask for a local fish called ‘tarli’ here. They also serve fried oysters called ‘shenani’ – a local delicacy.
- Anandashram in near GPO, Panjim. This restaurant is popular among locals and office-goers and gets quite crowded at lunch time. A fish thali costs Rs 25-30.
- Martin’s Corner at Betalbatim in South Goa. Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite restaurant in Goa is good but expensive.
- Cafe Xavier at Mapusa, located in Municipal Market.
- Viva Panjim, Fontainhas, Panjim is an old Goan Portuguese home crammed with tables and foreigners digging into Goan delicacies.
- Fernando’s Nostalgia in Raia is a typical Goan garden restaurant with a menu painted on an aluminum vessel lid. The lady finger or bhendi curry here is simply amazing.
Caution: A Goan fish thali will make you lazy and will be forced to take a siesta.