When you’ve got a Christian mother and a Hindu father, your life is a constant whirlwind of festivals— there are no two ways about it. Initially, it was all but confusing, not just for the Shrivastava clan but for others around us too. They didn’t quite understand what our whole family was doing at Christmas mass when we were just done celebrating Diwali a month ago. Sure, observing festivals constantly may sound like the better end of the stick, but with celebration comes traditions that you’ve got to respect. However, in most cases, traditions simply added to the joy of celebration—especially in the case of Christmas.
Come December, each year, we’d fly ourselves from Goa to Mumbai to visit my mother’s family a few days before Christmas. From rolling out perfectly shaped kalkals (if they weren’t perfect, my grandmother or mother would very pointedly redo it in front of us while complaining in Konkani, ensuring we understood their displeasure, even if it was in another language), to helping push marzipan into pretty floral moulds—the days before Christmas were a flurry of activity. Finally, when we’d get to our grand feast, set out on fine dishes reserved for Christmas, a glass of wine (homemade!) was placed beside each plate. The clattering of cutlery was forgiven or rather, unheard over the loud, raucous laughter and conversation that always accompanied Christmas Lunch. After all, it was a grand family affair. Our feast wrapped up with a barrage of Christmas sweets we had spent days making, Christmas cake and more wine.
Likewise, in a standard Goan home, the family is the real motivation behind this grand holiday. Without family, there’s little left to look forward to, which is why December in Goa is always crowded. Yes, it may be a renowned tourist hotspot but come what may, locals away from home will make their way back into town for their share of this traditional fare. In light of the same, we decided to break down the elaborate Goan Christmas lunch for those of you who aren’t privy to the feast that awaits.
First, the standard Christmas meal is ideally lunch, as most evenings are spent at a formal dance. Also, lunch means there’s enough time for an afternoon siesta after! While there is no standard set of dishes at every home, we’re going to talk about the ones that nearly always make it to the table every year—starting with the grand roast—a whole roasted pig or chicken. Coated with typical masalas, this roast tends to differ from a simple, glazed roast like the American counterpart. Goan roasts tend to also be a bit tangier due to the vinegar used in the marinade.
While the roast may be the centrepiece of any table, it doesn’t steal the spotlight from every other dish. Seafood and red meat are popular choices, more so when they’re traditional Goan recipes that have been passed down over the years. Steamed rice isn’t necessarily a staple—unless it’s cooked in the form of a Goan Sausage Pulao (of course, the famed Goan chorizo would make an appearance on Christmas) or Prawn Pulao. Side dishes include a tossed salad, Beef Rolls/Croquettes (fried, spiced beef mince), Pork Assado (sliced roasted pork cooked in spices and vinegar) and more. Sorpotel (previously a Christmas special that has now made itself a regular Goan dish), is a spicy, tangy (Goans really love their vinegar) pork curry best served along with sannas.
No Goan meal would be complete without some form of Xacuti being served up; yet another spicy but more coconut-y gravy. Let’s not forget the space dedicated to seafood too, it wouldn’t be a Goan Christmas without any gracing the table. Recheado Masala Tiger Prawns (prawns coated in a quintessential Goan spicy paste), Fish Fillet and a curry make sure this feast isn’t just another meaty extravaganza.
This may seem like a bit much but a Goan family on Christmas is ravenous—you don’t joke around with your food. Plus, close family friends or relatives are invited over as well. In fact, before everyone sits down for the main meal, snacks are handed out; such as Rissois, Croquettes, or Liver Pate on Toast. Stuffing your face is mandatory once the main course has been put down on to the table, but always, always remember that dessert is just as elaborate of a course in itself. Make sure you’re mentally prepared as well as physically because you’re going to want to get a slice of the glorious Caramel Custard, layered Bebinca (a traditional Indo-Portuguese cake; main ingredients include coconut milk, egg and sugar) and Christmas Cake. Fruits served with custard also make an appearance, although it pales in comparison to the other Goan delicacies laid out. In certain cases, houses will also put out Sans Rival (a rich pastry comprising of laters of buttercream, cashew and meringue) or Serradura (sweetened, thickened whipped cream, topped with crushed biscuit, earning itself the name ‘Sawdust Pudding’), both more exotic desserts than the norm.
The Goan spread is only one of the many elaborate fares around India when it comes to Christmas. Not all of us are blessed with a Goan family, relatives or friends who would invite you over (the horror!), but thankfully, Mumbai has a hidden gem of a restaurant that’s rustling up a Goan Christmas menu of their own. O Pedro, a Goan restaurant set up by The Bombay Canteen’s team intends on celebrating Christmas the Goan way—sample some of their Pork Assado with a side of Crispy Crackling, Stuffed Mackerel and more! If you want the whole package though, pop in on December 24 or December 25 for some of their Roast Duck and accompanying drinks – Good Ol’ Egg Nog & Christmas Milk Punch.
This article was written with inputs from Neha Joshi & Vanessa Monteiro to ensure we got the Goan Christmas menu down pat. Also, if we were you, we’d make reservations at O Pedro soon, especially if you don’t have tickets to Goa yet.
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