Well, I’ve just got back from 15 glorious days in Goa. What an experience! To begin with, the flight was over 9 hours out, and eleven hours back – a long time to be stuck in a metal tube with no means of escape! I was pleasantly surprised to find that my request for a vegan meal had been granted. The dinner was curry and rice, with fruit for pudding, and water biscuits and a small pot of marmite instead of cheese. It was ok. I had packed a load of vegan tofu jerky and similar snacks just in case, but didn’t need to call on these during the flight. There was no soya milk for my tea, but I had packed the Whitey vegan coffee whitener which is ok (though it does make the tea tast of vanilla). It was an overnight flight, and strangely, four hours after they served dinner, we switched to Goan time, and had breakfast. This was less inspiring. I had bread, fruit, and jam, with an orange juice. And more tea. But I didn’t mind – I felt absurdly happy that there was food at all!
We arrived at our hotel just after 9 am, dropped our bags in the room, and went for breakfast. This was when I learned about Indian breakfast – there is a curry soup called Sambha which is served every day – it’s spicy and hot and very tasty, and I had it most mornings. Different breads were served each day, and idli (some kind of rice dumpling) and they also had Dosas – which had egg in. So I didn’t eat that. But there was also the ‘welness’ breakfast – sliced tomatoes, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, and sprouted beans, with lots of fresh fruit. So I usually had a mixture of indian bread (eg poori) with the soup and the raw stuff, and sometimes their version of baked beans, or the potato cakes. Garlic mushrooms appeared frequently as well. So that first day, and every day after, I breakfasted well. The tea was good as well, and plenty of it, but every single day the waiters offered me milk with it.
The food overall was fantastic. We were only staying bed and breakfast, so we ate out most of the time. We could get a delicious curry at a beach shack for less than £2. I had dahl fry – delicious – and tadka dahl – and every place was slightly different. It was a successful holiday by vegan standards, as I found out on the first day that in Goa they use coconut oil or vegetable oil rather than ghee, and if you order a chapatti or other kind of bread, they will only put butter on if you ask for it. A few days soon had me realised what could be ordered and what couldn’t. There was a vast array of choice on every menu – including a huge variety of vegetarian food. However, I did learn to be cautious, because unless I specified otherwise, many curries came with cheese in. I figured this out and was able to specify what I wanted.
Obviously, they were all made with fresh spices, and tasted like no Indian food I have eaten in the UK. I had spicy vegetable kadai, and a local dish called Xacutti which has over 25 spices in it. THe curries were rich and thick and full of vegetables, and utterly delicious. We would have a bowl of curry and some bread at lunchtime at a beach shack, then eat at a different shack or a restaurant each evening. It was the most relaxed I have been since becoming vegan, as I knew that no matter where I went, there was ample choice. I sampled samosas the size of my fist, crispy and fluffy on the outside, and filled with tasty delicious vegetables. I ate chutneys and jeera rice and garlic parathas and more curries than I can name, and felt utterly happy.
Goa was an amazing experience – mangoes hanging on the trees next to cocunut palms, and other trees with huge, low-hanging jack-fruit. I sampled the local liquor – Caju Fenny – made from the fruit of the cashew tree. It tastes like a mixture between really strong vodka and cleaning fluid – but it packs a punch and is great in a margarita!
We visited Mapusa market and were overwhelmed by the traders with the veg and fruit and strange new items, and all the spices. I have never smelled spices like it. I bought many different fresh spices, and each one I sampled before buying – cinammon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, and garam masala like I have never smelled. I can’t find words to describe the colours and smells of that market, and the heat driving us to find shade whenever possible. But it was lovely.
It was a wonderful holiday, made all the more wonderful by the food. And it was cheap – really cheap. As a vegan, I would recommend it.