Beyond vindaloo; The cuisine of Goa is a fascinating fusion born in the centuries that Portugal ruled the Indian region. But you won't find it in a restaurant -- it's best enjoyed at home
Barbara Hansen. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Aug 6, 2003. pg. F.3; (Copyright (c) 2003 Los Angeles Times)
The cuisine of Goa: It's the great, undiscovered regional Indian cooking -- because it's not a restaurant cuisine.

Maybe your curiosity has been piqued by references to "Goan spices" popping up on menus in trendy restaurants. Or maybe you've seen a mention of Goan vindaloo or Goan prawn curry at a northern Indian restaurant. But although more Goans live in Southern California than in any other part of the United States, there are no Goan restaurants here.

Goa, a small state on India's western coast, is famous for its gorgeous beaches, but it also boasts a fascinating fusion cuisine developed during 4 1/2 centuries of Portuguese occupation. Goan dishes -- curries, stews, chutneys and desserts that combine Latin and Asian influences -- appeal to a contemporary taste for assertive seasoning and intriguing spices but have evolved over centuries.

Goan cooking centers on meat and seafood flavored with fragrant and pungent spices: chiles, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, asafetida, saffron and tamarind, often combined with onions and vinegar. Portuguese ingredients (such as sausage) and Portuguese preparations (such as soups) are combined with tropical ingredients such as coconut, cashews and mangoes. Finally, the cuisine absorbed Asian, African, European, Arab and Brazilian influences because of the country's position as a crossroads of trade routes.

Goan cuisine reaches its heights in home kitchens. Even in Goa, it is not restaurant cuisine. Catering schools train young Goans in the Continental and Punjabi dishes they are most likely to prepare on the job, says restaurateur Addi Decosta of Addi's Tandoor in Redondo Beach, who is from Goa. Resort food is tailored to please weekenders from Mumbai (Bombay), the nearest major city, and overseas tourists arriving on charter flights. "Tourists who want Goan food eat at shacks on the beach," he says.

In Redondo Beach, Decosta has added a few Goan dishes to his northern Indian menu. These include shrimp cooked with coconut and red or green masalas and vindaloo -- not the bastardized, fiery version of this dish that is served in almost every Indian restaurant, but one that's seasoned Goan-style, with red chiles, fragrant spices and vinegar. Decosta's green masala also has a sharp vinegar tang.

In The Times' test kitchen, Decosta prepared his shrimp masala. The dish's distinctive, full-bodied sauce is made by mixing spices into a base of onion "gravy" created from 16 cups of chopped white onions that are reduced, then pureed.