Like many touristy destinations, it's remarkably easy to spend a week or two in the beachy paradise of Goa, India, and never sink your teeth into the region's native cuisine. That's a shame, because this is not your typical Indian food.

The subcontinent's smallest state was a Portuguese colony for more than four centuries and didn't become part of India proper until 1961 — 14 years after the rest of the country gained independence from Britain. As such, Goan cooking is heavy on the Portuguese influences. And, thanks to the sizable Christian population, this is the only state in India where you'll find pork widely available.

Goa's prime seaside real estate, a long and narrow swath of coastline stretching 63 miles, means coconut and seafood are important staples, too. Also, the booze is cheaper here than in any other part of the country, one of the many reasons Goa is a popular domestic and international vacation spot. For a taste of the beachy locale's indigenous flavors, check out these dishes:

Goa's most famous dish is properly Portuguese at its root; the name comes from "vin d'alho," a traditional wine and garlic stew. Somewhere along the way, vinegar was subbed for wine, Indian spices were added and chiles were tossed into the pot. You'll find a slew of vindaloo variations worldwide, many of them balls-to-the-wall spicy. But, in Goa, the recipe is heavy on vinegar, palm sugar and ginger, which results in more of a sweet-and-sour flavor profile. Since Portuguese types were big on pork, that's usually the protein of choice at traditional Goan restaurants. By the beach, vindaloo is also made with locally caught fish, prawns or squid.

Chouriço (a.k.a. Goan Sausage)
That chouriço sounds a lot like "chorizo" is no coincidence: the pork sausages are close cousins. In Goa, it takes a few forms. Made from chopped pork mixed with vinegar and lots of spices, the sausages are found wet or sun-dried, mild or spicy. Chouriço must be cooked, and it's used as a base protein for many different dishes. At Martin's Corner, a famous restaurant in Central Goa, the sausage comes fried with peppers and onions. Stuffed inside pao bread rolls (the recommended side order), the messy preparation resembled a plate of barbecue, or maybe a subcontinental sloppy joe.

Not Goa's most richly storied dish, but definitely popular with the tourists, this snack comes in two common preparations, both based on pappadam, the crispy spiced lentil cracker often served as a pre-meal nibble. One version is a sort of spring roll wrapped around local seafood, fried and then sliced up for sharing. The other common version is basically chips and salsa with an Indian spin: a layer of crispy pappad are topped with a "masala" mix of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chilies, and Indian spices. Both versions pair well with Kingfisher beer and a spectacular Goa sunset.

This bracing beverage is quintessentially Goan, but we can't promise you're going to like it. Order it, anyway, if only for the experience. It won't cost you more than a couple of dollars a pour. Usually made from either locally harvested cashew or coconut, this clear hooch is quite potent: up to 80 proof. Think of it as Indian beach moonshine. That makes it cool in our book.

You might need to psych yourself up for this one: a vinegar-based stew of Portuguese origin, usually made with pig liver, heart and tongue. If you're not into offal, this might not be your jam. But be brave, dig in and earn the respect of your waiter. This rich dish is quite filling and, with all that organ meat, packs plenty of iron! Be sure to order some pao to mop it up.

One of Goa's most coconutty offerings is this mild curry of simmered coconut meat, poppy, cumin, fennel and cinnamon. Chicken is the usual protein for this comforting dish, but equally successful versions feature prawns or other seafood, accompanied by rice. Xacuti (pronounced "sha-cu-ti") has its origins with the native Kankani people, rather than the Portuguese.

There's no excuse for going to Goa without trying bebinca. The state's signature dessert is offered in restaurants and sold in touristy shops vacuum-sealed and ready to be toted home. The dense, flan-like cake was originally a food for special occasions, but it's now widely available year-round. Made from flour, coconut milk and egg yolks that are layered and slowly cooked, the mixture arrives like a dense, caramelized pound cake. Not the best option for maintaining that bikini-bod shape, but that makes it a great souvenir.

If you're headed to Goa, check out these restaurants offering traditional cuisine:

Martin's corner
Located in the tiny village of Betalbatim, not far from the main train station in Margao, Martin's began 25 years ago as a hole in the wall and has grown into a large and elegant indoor-outdoor restaurant that's no longer exactly humble or cheap. But the food is worth it: try the Goan sausage fried with peppers and onions and a side order of pao, the famous crab recheado (a Goan spice blend made with cinnamon, ginger, garlic, mustard, and other tasty things) or, the sorpotel, if you dare.

Mum's Kitchen
Mum's is a charming place that's somewhat removed from the center of things in Goa's capital of Panaji, but well worth the short auto-rickshaw ride. (Or, an easy bus ride, for the more intrepid). The lovely space affronts a small garden and the kitchen sustains endangered Goan recipes as well as more classic dishes. Squid ambotik curry is made with an intriguing sour plum that lends it a tea-like flavor.

Read more about Indian cuisine on Food Republic: