Updated: Apr 28, 2021
"Have you ever come across the ‘Fruits of the Sea’? You might wonder what that might be. Wake before the break of Dawn and watch the harvest. Fish in a meal is what Goans love best"
Having a coastline of around 125km. It's no surprise that the people of Goa love their fish so dearly. Early Goans were majorly Farmers and Fishermen (Ramponkar). This meant that fish and vegetables were balanced in proportion with every meal. Due to the Abundant availability of both, the humble fish thali is the only dish available at almost all restaurants in Goa. Moreover, it is the fastest moving item on the menu card in the afternoon. A staple meal consisting of all the major nutrients that a body needs. This is because of the variety of food served in little containers. Some of the items may differ with different restaurants, the basic items remain the same.
Living in Goa for several months now, I have tried thalis at a number of places. For the ones that are trying it for the first time and the ones that have tried it but have no idea what some of the items are called, I will break it down to you.
Rice (xit/sheeth)- Most restaurants in Goa serve white rice. Either Sona Masoori or Basmati breed.
Curry(Kodi) - The curry is usually a tangy and spicy to taste and yellowish orange in appearance. Coconut milk based with a variety of Indian and local spices. Kokum (Dried deep red in color) and Theffa (little green seeds that look like pepper) in particular give the signature flavor of Goa..
Ambot tik- Literally translates to sour and spicy. The ingredients that go into this dish gives a stronger punch to your palate. The fish used is different from the curry or the one that is fried.
Kismur- A dish prepared with the dried prawns or fish and coconut.
Dal- A lentil soup which is usually mixed with rice and eaten.
Vegetable (Bhaji)- A dry preparation with a mild flavor. You can expect any of the common ones in india such as Cauliflower, Cabbage, Peas, Brinjal, Yam, Beans, Potato etc..
Salad (Saladh)- Cabbage, Carrot, Onions and Cucumbers. Shredded and served raw.
Pickle (Lonnche)- Smallest portion out of all. It has the strongest spice factor. Base ingredients are red chilies, oil, salt and raw Mango in most cases.
Fried fish- The cherry on the cake, this is the tastiest part of the meal. The cost of the meal also depends on the type of fish. The most common and cheapest variety is mackerel (Bangda). Other varieties are King fish, Asian sole (Lepo), pomfret (Pomplet), Stone Fish (Modso) served along with the Thali.
Solkhadi- This is a drink prepared with kokum, green chillies and coriander which serves as a digestive and is had at the end of the meal.
The cost of the Thali could range between Rs80 to Rs150 at the small hotels which have regular customers on a daily basis. At fine dine restaurants and high end hotels the price could go upto even Rs 500. The difference is that you would get a bigger variety of little containers of food and a larger piece of prime fish in addition to the meticulous levels of hygiene maintained during its preparation.
The next question is where do you get the best Fish Thali in Goa? I haven't tried the food from every nook and corner of the state BUT I will recommend a few fine dine restaurants I have enjoyed for you to drop by.
Hotel Satyaheera at Mapusa
Bhojan, Copperleaf at Porvorim
Ritz Classic, Konkani Canteen at Panjim
Sheela Bar and Restaurant near Vasco
Shivam Bar and Restaurant/ Sharada Classic bar and restaurant at Margao
Starlight, Seamens, JoCarol Restaurants at Assolna
What I've observed in Goa is that the fish thali or nuesthachi jowann is AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE AFTERNOON for lunch. Most places follow this for some reason which I haven't been able to figure out. Some of the top end restaurants and a few local joints do serve it for dinner. Fish at night is served Rava fried or Rechead Masala as the Goans love it with their drinks in the evening.