Slideshow: We Eat Our Way Through An Epic Four-Day Indian Wedding Feast

Temple Food in Goa
Temple Food in Goa

Hindu temple food varies from region to region, but there are certain common rules: the food is vegetarian, the ingredients are bathed before cooking and there’s usually no onion, garlic or mushrooms.

The meal included (clockwise from the top): usal (beans with rice), potato bhaji (curried potato), naan, a thin flaky cracker, pulao, bharleli vangi (stuffed eggplant), and mango pickles.

Naan in Goa
Naan in Goa

Check out that naan! Warm and just a little bit charred, it's pretty much perfect.

Ras Malai
Ras Malai

A flattened ball of paneer (Indian buffalo milk cheese) seeped in clotted cream and flavored with cardamom. Imagine if you could make cheesecake into a pudding—it's kind of like that.

Breakfast in Goa
Breakfast in Goa

For breakfast, the fried pepper and spicy samosa get your eyes wide open. The sweet green coconut and coriander chutney, bread, and boiled peanuts cool everything down.

Boiled Peanuts in Goa
Boiled Peanuts in Goa

Some of Goa's common dishes, like these boiled peanuts, are similar to food found in the southern United States. They're boiled in salted water for roughly 20 minutes and are my new favorite football snack.

Cashews
Cashews

Goa is famous for its cashews. Here they're roasted with spices.

Besan Ladoo in Goa
Besan Ladoo in Goa

A roux of chickpea flour or gram flour and ghee is mixed with sugar to make this sweet dessert. It's topped with raisins and has the texture of smooth homemade peanut butter. These were meant for a group, but I'm pretty sure I ate most of them.

Goan Wedding Henna
Goan Wedding Henna

The bride's henna covers her arms, hands, legs and feet. The elaborate drawings take hours to complete.

Using a Boti to Slice an Onion
Using a Boti to Slice an Onion

Forget kitchen knives—Goan cooks prefer to use a boti for slicing. This tool consists of a curved blade attached to a stool-like wooden block.

Using a Boti to Shred Coconut
Using a Boti to Shred Coconut

A man shreds coconuts outside his home using another type of boti, this one fitted with a grated blade.

The Mehndi Celebration
The Mehndi Celebration

During the mehndi celebration, the bride's extended family gathers to catch up, dance, and dine on a family-style spread of classic Indian dishes, including: pulao (rice and peas cooked in spiced water with chili and ghee), aloo gobi ki sabzi (a blazing hot cauliflower and potato stir fry), and boondi raita (tender gram flour balls seeped in yogurt).

Boondi Raita
Boondi Raita

For wimpy Americans, boondi raita can be a real hero during a spicy Indian meal. Tender gram flour balls are seeped in cool, tart yogurt.

Chole Bhature
Chole Bhature

As we surveyed the buffet, an Indian man pulled me aside and pointed out the chole bhature (chickpeas, stewed with ginger, cardamom, garam masala, and other spices, scooped over fried dough). "That won't be too spicy for you," he said.

Americans have a bit of a reputation.

Kingfish Rawa Fry
Kingfish Rawa Fry

This fish fry was scorchingly hot. Thin kingfish fillets are marinated in a chili and turmeric sauce, then coated with semolina before a quick deep fry. I'd eat this every night if I could.

Goan Vegetable Kadai
Goan Vegetable Kadai

An assortment of vegetables and beans stir fried with dried spices, then stewed with tomato and water.

Nutmeg Growing in Goa
Nutmeg Growing in Goa

After the wedding ended, we toured a spice farm that grows many of the staples brought by the Portuguese to Goa. Nutmeg, the little green ball seen here, is also harvested for mace.

Piri Piri Peppers
Piri Piri Peppers

The tiny piri piri chili pepper was brought by the Portuguese from Africa. They rate as high as 175,000 on the Scoville scale (by comparison, jalapeños top out around 10,000), so you probably shouldn't just bite into them willy-nilly.... but I did anyway. These are hot. Like really really hot. Like getting punched by Ghost Rider hot.

Starfruit
Starfruit

Fortunately, our tour guide took pity on me and revealed an antidote for piri piri pain: fresh starfruit. I was healed immediately and (almost) no one saw me cry.