Christmas feast: Turkey takes centre stage at dinners in Goa

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, IANS
Monday, December 13, 2010

PANAJI - India’s national culinary bird, the humble chicken, has got competition this Christmas. Turkeys - big, fat, stuffed, roasted and glazed - are slowly taking centre stage at dinners in Goa, edging out the relatively lean chicken.

Demand for dressed turkey birds for the dinner table is on the rise this year, according to traders who source the exotic birds from breeding farms located in the vicinity of Goa or on the outskirts of the state.

While the arrival of the venerable, meaty and 8-12 pounder turkeys on dinner tables is a very British twist to a Portuguese-influenced psyche of Goans, those who deal in these birds in this former Lusitanian colony aren’t disappointed.

“We offer a whole six-kilogram turkey with various kinds of stuffing. You can choose a full-baked turkey or roast turkey with your choice of stuffing. Almond sauce stuffing with red wine or herbal stuffing or orange baked stuffing or roast turkey with apple, ham and garlic or whatever suits you,” Joel Fernandes of the Calangute-based Infantaria, a bakery-cum-restaurant, told IANS.

According to Joel, whose restaurant is extremely popular with the holiday crowd in the tourism hub 15 km from here, if you really want to dig into a turkey on the Christmas eve, there’s no room for procrastination.

“Orders for turkeys have to be given before Dec 20. At the last minute, it is difficult to get turkey and I can’t order more. A single turkey costs a cool Rs.3,000 which can vary depending on the stuffing,” Joel said, claiming that orders for stuffed turkeys this year have already started pouring in.

“Unlike chicken, where sales can be quite accurately tracked because of the organized nature of business, turkeys are difficult to account. But, from a stage where once people did not even know about roast turkey 10 years ago, we are getting nearly four to five business queries every day,” said Rudolf Lobo, who deals in fresh meats in Margao.

“A lot of turkeys come in from farms near Goa. I peg the figure at nearly 3,000 (turkeys) for the Christmas season,” he said.

Turkeys are raised and bred in small farms on the outskirts of Goa, often by poultry dealers, who then sell the dressed birds to various fresh and frozen meat outlets spread across the state.

A week or two before Christmas, it is not an uncommon sight to see a couple of young, rustic lads bringing a small flock of 20-30 birds to towns whereh they set up a makeshift camp and sell the gluttonous birds to would be Christmas revellers.

“Goa is one of the best markets for turkey during Christmas. We sell them to Bangalore and Mumbai too. Most birds weighing 3-4 kg are sold for Rs.600-700,” said Altaf Sheikh, who brokers the birds by buying them from farms in Karnataka and selling them to hotels and restaurants.

Hotels and restaurants along the state’s coastline buy the birds for their grand Chirstmas dinner, which is a hit with foreign tourists, mostly from Britain and Russia who throng the beach villages.

“Starred hotels are big buyers. Most of the big orders I get are from starred hotels,” said Joel.

According to him, the demand for turkeys could have been spurred in Goa by European tourists, especially those from Britain, who like to keep a date with their Christmas tradition, even while holidaying in the sunshine on Goan beaches.

But once the meat-loving Goans sunk their teeth into the succulent bird, they simply could not have enough of it.

“Even though British, besides Fins, Dutch and other Scandinavians, seek turkey, the major buyers are Goans,” Joel said.

Roast turkey substituted the wild goose as a mainstay on the dinner table on Christmas for most English homes, after captive farming of the bird made it more easily available than the goose some time in the last century.

But for those of whom spending Rs.3,000 on an edible dinner table centre-piece is a lot of money, there’s always the duck, which is meat all right but falls way short of quality.

“Ducklings are also available but because the quality of Indian ducks are not too good the demand is less. The meat is very hard. Duckling in ginger sauce is one of the options,” Joel said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at

–Indo Asian News Service

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