“There is something about Goan drinking that is worth recording for posterity. A Goan seldom gets drunk, though every village has its miniscule quota of alcoholics. Unlike many non-Goan Indian tourists who mix beer with whisky and consume it in large gulps trying to get a quick kick…which they rightly deserve in the seat of their pants. For the Goan alcohol is a spice that gives zest to his whole being. A kind of tonic of the soul. It brings rainbows into his conversation, nightingales into his singing and magic into everything he does.”George Menezes, One sip at a time
It was long while ago that I read these lines by the author and it is also in his book which is collection of humorous anecdotes that I first came across the word “sucego” a Goan experience.
“Sucego – it is untranslatable into any other language. It is often mistaken by non-Goans for procrastination or the mañana experience. It is far from it. Sucego is a state of being suspended in space, a kind of doing nothingness, a blessed blissfulness that cannot be described, only experienced.George Menezes, One sip at a time
One quintessential Goan experience is the caju (cashew apple) feni and we decided to explore the Feni and Tapas food trail; a walking tour offered by an organization called Make It Happen in Goa.
It was an evening walk, starting at 7:30 pm from the Panjim church also called the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a stately landmark, the white paint was aglow from far; the church gates were closed, but the steps still held plenty of crowd. We had already visited the church on our prior trip to Goa few years back.
We were a group of five; it was a private tour and on the church steps we met our storyteller for the tour, Ms. Petulla. “There are two types of feni – Coconut feni and the Cashew feni” said our guide “and Goa got the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2009 for making cashew (caju) feni – a colourless, clear liquid. Now only Goa can make the caju feni.”
The production of the coconut feni also called palm toddy dates back much earlier while the cashew tree was later introduced by the Portuguese from Brazil.
The night was warm; we cross the road and walk down to our first restaurant; with a green facade and called Restaurante Vasco Da Gama. Up the stairs on the first floor, we enter the restaurant; it’s empty save for two foreigners. “One of the oldest establishments in Goa” says our guide, “the restaurant is owned by its members and served as a formal setting for entertainment.”
The room is framed by high ceiling and it felt cool inside. We were served feni shots and then seated at a table to savour the food – the non-veg options were meat and fish cutlets and veg options were veg cutlets and Goan veg canapes👇 together with a feni mojito.
We move on to the Fontainhas area; the streets are not crowded and we walk past the colourful buildings to a restaurant called Antonio; a small place, packed with people. Luckily we have a table reserved and we try the feni mule with boiled peanuts and banana crisps.
“Taste the ginger slice in the feni mule..” reminds our guide. On our way out she points to the famous Joseph Bar, also packed. “The restaurant’s here have a hard cut off at 10:30 pm” Petulla says.
Moving on, a few streets ahead, we stop at a Heritage hotel – the Panjim Inn and enter the Verandah restaurant. It is quiet inside the hotel as we step in for a tour, a few guests are having dinner on the verandah on the first floor. The entire house is made of wood – presumably teak.
Petulla goes into the details of the feni distillation process. After removing the nut, the ripe cashew fruits are stomped to extract the juices. The first juice is called the “Urrak“; it must be drank fresh; it has low alcohol content.
Feni is a double distilled fine product of the same juice, and contains 40%-45% of alcohol. Feni comes with a good shelf life compared to the Urrak. Cashew feni is now sold under the brand name – Cazulo.
The feni drink here was a cocktail of cinnamon and pineapple juice and the eats were Mackerel rawa fry and potato fries for the non-veg and for the veg – brinjal and potato rawa fry. The mackerel was not one of our preferred fishes, would have loved a kingfish or prawns rawa fry instead 😊. The organizers did call to ask prior about our food preferences; didn’t know about the choice of fish.
The last stop for the night was a family restaurant called Viva Panjim and here again with feni mojito we had Goan bread and chicken cafreal and mushroom cafreal (veg option). This was dinner followed by the layered Goan dessert Bebinca.
By the time we were done it was 10:30 pm. The tour was both fun and fantastic !! Feni’s colourlessness makes it almost like vodka and the cocktails🍹 were a fun way to enjoy the traditional drink. It was a memorable evening 🌃. Do try it out 🥂.
Till next post, take care !!