• Clyde Tellis

What is Bebinca? The history behind this Iconic Goan Dessert

Updated: May 15, 2021

When in Goa you run for the best Fish Thali and fresh Seafood by the beaches. What would you do if you want to take something back for your loved ones at home? Most souvenir stores would either offer you Cashew nuts, Doldol or Bebinca. It is almost synonymous with Goa outside Goa. Did you know the legend behind how Bebinca was invented?


goan sweets
A platter of Goan Sweets at a Walking trail in Panjim. (Bebinca to the top right)

In the Portuguese city capital 'Cidade de Goa', there is one monument that stands strong to this date, The Royal Monastery of Santa Monica. The Augustinian nuns were well known for their skills such as culinary, gardening, candlemaking, paintings etc. Their abbots (Costume) would have a combination of white and black fabric like the one shown in the picture. Before the advent of technology, the nuns would use egg whites to starch their abbots so they would stay stiff and without creases. It was a sustainable means of preparing clothes without the use of chemicals. Another tale says that the egg whites were used for gilding gold on the altars of the churches. With several dozen eggs being consumed, the yellows of the eggs remained.


Fresco mural in the royal monastery of santa monica
Fresco mural that depicts the abbot of the nuns on the top left


As you would already know, the nuns were good at cooking, and apparently, these yellows were mixed with flour, coconut milk, and jaggery, and a few cold spices which were cooked over a slow flame. It turned into a thick pancake. This was presented to the priests and they loved the flavor. The only problem was it was too thick. The next time this was prepared, the nun decided to layer one pancake over the other glazed with a coat of ghee. It is said that she made seven layers and then went back to serve the priests. This time it was perfect. It became a sensation which is the primary reason why it is still popular to this day.


Here's the interesting bit. The nun who was behind this creation was believed to be of Portuguese descent whose name is Bebiana. That is how the name came about. It is also said that the mother of the legendary father of hypnotism 'Abbe De Faria' had some contribution to inventing this dish too. Although Bebinca is found all over Goa packaged and sealed, the best ones are the ones that are homemade. The shelf life is just a couple of days and it is not as sweet as the ones available commercially. It can be either had plain or with some Vanilla ice cream.

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