Hundreds of years ago, the meals eaten by the people of Goa were probably very different from the cuisine that we enjoy today. Why, you might ask. For the simple reason that many of the ingredients – potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, to name a few – that are used in local cuisine today, were unheard of back then.
Most fruits and vegetables, that are so essential in the Goan kitchen, are not indigenous to the land, but reached Goa’s shores not too long ago.
Vasco da Gama's discovery of a sea route to India, in 1498, led to intensified sea trade between India and the Portuguese, British, French and Dutch; while the Moghuls (1526-1857) granted liberal trade concessions to foreign powers. This maritime trade brought new and exotic food items to India.
Goa was the first European colony in Asia, and became an important trading centre of the Portuguese, and in the bargain, received goods from various parts of the world, including Africa, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South East Asia.
The introduction of a variety of such exotic plant species resulted in a gradual change in the agricultural economy and food habits of the local populace, and India, in general. By the early 18th century, the cultivation of tobacco, chillies, chickoos, guavas, sitaphal, pineapples, oranges, cashews, papayas and breadfruit was established in South India.
Before Vasco da Gama came to Goa in India (ie before 1498), the main crops of India were limited to rice, lentils, cotton, sugarcane, wheat, jowar and bajra. There were no chillies, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, pineapples, guavas, papayas, maize, custard apples or pumpkins.
After the arrival of Vasco da Gama (1498 onwards), several new crops were introduced ie chillies, peanuts, potatoes, coriander, cashewnuts, brinjal, pineapples, papayas, tobacco, and exotic species.
Most of these items were soon incorporated in the food habits of Goa, and the rest of India. Here’s a list of a few food items, and the country from which they were brought to Goa.
Chillies: Came from South America (probably Chile)
Guava (Per): Came from Peru
Sweet limes: Came from Mozambique
Capsicum, potato, wheat, tomato: Came from Latin America
Bimbli: Came from South East Asia
Chickoo: Came from Guatamala, Mexico
Onions: Came from Egypt
Cloves: Came from Indonesia
Oranges: Came from Japan
Green peas, cabbage, cauliflower: Came from Europe
Poppy seeds: Came from Turkey
Moira Bananas: Came from Africa
Custard apples: Came from Indonesia, Malaysia
Mulberry: Came from China
Cashews: Came from Brazil
Pineapple, papaya: Came from South America