While the Catholic communities in Goa are renowned for their rich cuisine that draws from the many influences of the state, Christmas sweets are a grand affair that showcase a vast variety of colours, textures and ingredients. The Goan Christmas platter – or Kuswar – is loaded with delicious treats that deserve their moment in the spotlight.
A crunchy confection made with flour, sugar and milk – the kulkuls are one of the most widely consumed and popular sweets associated with the festivals. A popular snack that is eaten during Christmas time, kulkuls are made by shaping small squares of dough, often a mixture of flour, coconut milk, sugar and eggs, into small, curled or shell-like shapes. The dough pieces are deep-fried until they turn golden brown and crispy, and coated with powdered sugar for added sweetness. These traditional Christmas sweets have a crunchy texture on the outside and typically enjoyed with tea or coffee for light snacking.
A fudgy, jelly-like sweet made with coconut milk and jaggery, the dodol has a deep caramel flavour and loaded with cashew nuts – making it decadent and delicious. Also popular in various Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the preparation involves cooking the coconut milk and jaggery over low heat while stirring continuously until it thickens to a paste-like consistency. Its dense, chewy and somewhat sticky texture with a rich, caramel-like flavour, makes it a beloved treat that showcases the unique culinary traditions of the region.
What most of us know as guava cheese, perad is a quintessential Goan sweet that is made by slow cooking the pulp from fresh guavas, until it develops a chewy consistency similar to toffee. The dense, fudge-like texture and a sweet, fruity flavour with the distinct taste of guava makes it a standalone sweet that is also used as a filling in pastries and desserts.
Also known as baath, this traditional coconut cake is a fluffy sponge cake made with semolina and flavoured with cardamom. Also known as baathika or baatica, the traditional Goan cake is baked until it achieves a golden-brown colour on the outside while maintaining a moist and soft texture within. Often characterized by its rich coconut flavour and slightly grainy texture from the semolina, the badca is typically sliced into squares and served as a delightful treat that is enjoyed after a meal or as a snack.
Although largely associated with Easter, marzipans are the colourful sweets that come in various shapes, which are especially enjoyed during Christmas – on their own or as edible decorations for cakes. A variation of the traditional marzipan with Latin origins, the Goan version typically utilises cashew nuts ground to a powder, sugar and sometimes egg whites to create a smooth and malleable dough-like consistency, along with a touch of rose water or almond extract for added flavour.
This three-ingredient treat made with cashew powder, milk and sugar is a classic sweet for the Goan and East Indian communities; and moulded into various shapes. This popular sweet confectionery in Goan cuisine, is a fudge-like sweet made from simple ingredients like milk, sugar and grated coconut. The smooth, creamy and slightly grainy textured sweet with a rich, milky flavour is meant to be shared with family and friends during Christmas.
One of the most popular traditional Goan desserts, the bebinca is a rich, layered pudding-like dessert made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs yolks, flour and ghee. The process which involves creating thin layers of batter by alternately pouring and baking each layer individually, before adding the next, is repeated several times, resulting in a cake with multiple layers, each with a slightly caramelized taste due to the baking process. The dense and slightly chewy texture, and sweet, creamy-coconutty flavour, makes it ideal to consume throughout the year, but also during the festive season.