Goa’s crown jewel, the Bebinca, takes 4 to 12 hours to bake. The primary ingredient to prepare this multi-layered delicacy is patience and it was born out of the need for zero-waste cooking in the 17th century.
If one had to apply the viral social media trend #TheTellMeChallenge, to talk about Goa without mentioning ‘Goa’, it is no doubt that one would think to talk about Bebinca. This ghee-lathered sweetmeat encapsulates the state’s unique cultural and historical identity within its seven layers of glistening brilliance.
A flavourful vestige of the state’s colonial past, Bebinca is as unique to Goa as cartoonist Mario Miranda’s delightful illustrations portraying the lives of Goans.
And that is why it’s no surprise that the chief minister of the state, Pramod Sawant recently announced to push for a geographical indication (GI) tag for the dessert, in addition to the Mankurad mango, local brew coconut Feni, Taleigao brinjal, Saat Shireacho Bhendo (okra) and the Kunbi saree.
But underneath the luscious multi-layered slice of warm bliss, often served with vanilla ice cream, lies interesting stories of Goa’s culinary adventures.
Also known as ‘bibik’, this Portuguese-influenced dessert is undisputedly the most popular sweet delicacy in the state. It makes special appearances at every occasion, be it a wedding, Christmas or any other feast. This indeed has earned Bebinca the sobriquet of ‘Queen of Goan Desserts’.
However, its origin is still shrouded in mystery. Some legends claim that much like other confectionaries of the convent (doces conventuais in Portuguese) Bebinca was also invented by Portuguese nuns in the 17th century. But what stands out is their zero-waste baking approach.
Contrary to most baked foods that use egg whites, here the yolks take the limelight. Using egg whites to starch clothes was a common practice of the colonizers which is still prevalent in parts of Old Goa. As a result of this, most people, much like the Portuguese nuns of Santa Monica Convent in Old Goa, would end up with an excess of leftover egg yolks. Legend has it that Bebinca came to be a solution to leftover yolks.