Goa Ahead, Fall in Love with This Pantry Staple from India

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Liz Clayman)

Earlier this year, I traded the frigid New York-Paris grind for a tiny beach hut in Goa. Situated on the Arabian Sea, midway down India’s southwest coast, the former Portuguese enclave is known for its miles of beaches and (for lack of a better word) enthusiastic full-moon parties. While I have nothing against large groups of people dancing all night under the light of the moon, I skirted the issue entirely and tucked myself into the more rustic south Goa, which offers seclusion and a low-key attitude.

(Image credit: Rebekah Peppler)

Sans computer, well-supplied with freshly minted notebooks and virgin Muji pens, I came seeking unmitigated isolation. More specifically, I was looking for a break from the all-work-and-no-play mentality that both cities I call home can seem to abide by.

For the first 10 days, I made it through that hard undertaking of sea, sand, and blissful quiet without working at all, subsisting on not much more than fresh Goan cashews, Kingfisher beer, and plenty of south Indian sun. But when I finally ventured outside my beach hut for dinner one night, it wasn’t the fish curry (excellent) or the locally brewed feni liquor (fiery) that swept my heart up and threw me straight back into food journalism mode.

It was a bowl of rice. Goan red rice to be exact.

I love rice, period — give me a bowl of rice and a pile of flaky sea salt and I’m so happy — but Goan red rice has more heft to it. I love that the plumpness really sets it apart from other red rice; it feels indulgent in and of itself, and it makes anything saucy more fun to eat.

Unsurprisingly, India isn’t the most unexpected place to find a bowl of rice. It’s served as a staple alongside many meals, and the country is home to more than 4,000 varieties. The type differs depending on the region you’re in: aromatic basmati in the foothills of the Himalayas, Ponni rice in Tamil Nadu and, just my luck, Goan Red Rice (also known as Goan Fat Rice) in Goa.

What Is Goan Rice?

Nutty, firm in texture, and marginally heftier than traditional rice (hence the “fat” moniker), Goan Red Rice is prepared by first parboiling the rice, separating the grain from the husk, and then drying it a second time. This process leaves part of the bran on the grain and offers the rice its reddish-brown color and distinctive streaks. Difficult to find outside Goa (even in Delhi I had a hard time sourcing the rice), Goan Red Rice can be found locally or, quite irregularly, online.

Find It: Goan Rice

How to Serve Goan Rice

Traditionally served alongside Goan fish curry at one of the many beach shacks in Goa (preferably with a fresh coconut close at hand), Goan Red Rice is most at home alongside anything that boasts plenty of sauce to soak into the plump grains. So far, back in my home kitchen, it has been received exceptionally well alongside a barrage of cold-weather stews, chili, and of course, the wide world of curry.

Try It With

How to Cook Goan Rice

Bring five cups of cold water to a boil. Add one cup of rice. Lower the heat and simmer until the rice is soft and plump, 50 minutes to one hour. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve. Serve plain or stir a spoonful of ghee into the warm, cooked rice for an extra-indulgent side.