Goan delight

Written by Sulekha Nair | Updated: Jan 18 2009, 05:45am hrs
Goa Portuguesa, a landmark at Dadar famous for its Goan cuisine, has brought out a coffee table book titled Goa Portuguesa written by co-owner and executive chef, Deepa Suhas Awcha, on the 20th anniversary of the restaurant. The book details the recipes, some tweaked to temper the fieriness of the cuisine to appeal to everyones palate. Would not the book help rivals to introduce it in their restaurants or start their own Awchat says, It would be good for the cuisine. Right now, we are the only ones to offer this cuisine in a restaurant.

Awchat busts some of the myths of the cuisine and also shares a few secrets. Goan food is not all about fish and pork. Nor is it too spicy and too vinegary. The book lists over 62 vegetarian recipes out of the 118 featured here. Its unjust to generalise. The Portuguese had a lasting influence on Goan Catholic cuisine, and delicacies like vindalho, cafreal, balchao and sorportel are known world wide. They have achieved a cult status, so to speak. However, there are as many, if not more for vegetarians too in the Goan Hindu cuisine, which has a lot in common with the Konkan region. Unfortunately, dishes such as bhaji, shaak, usal, tondak, ross (coconut-based dishes), hoomans (curries), karams (salads) and the queen of Goan vegetable dishes, khatkhatem (mixed vegetable curry) are not made outside of Hindu homes. Even today in Goa, one will find it hard to source these dishes in a restaurant.

The Portuguese left their mark not only on Goan cuisine, but on the Indian culinary map with their chillies, vinegar, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapples and cashew fruit. They also introduced a host of kitchen techniques like baking of bread and distilling alcohol, which has given Goans the dubious distinction of being lovers of a very spirited life!

Some of the most famous drinks are solkadi, a kokum and coconut milk refresher which is a natural digestive and antacid. This pale mauve blend of tangy kokum and silky coconut milk is served most in Hindu Goan homes. If kokum is not available, one can add bottled kokum juice to a cup of coconut milk and the drink tastes the same. We also have a tender coconut punch made with tender coconut water, lime juice, tender coconut flesh and sugar. Its really popular.

There are fasting foods in Goan cuisine like moongacho gathi (curried green gram), batatyache patal bhaji (potato curry), tur dal ross (split pigeon pea curry) and much more. Goan meals call for sturdy grains of rice and spongy breads to soak up curries and gravies oozing with flavour. There are a host of chutneys and pickles which are called tondak lavung (palate ticklers). Vindalho is made traditionally with pork and is made with fiery red chillies, vinegar, garlic and spices are added to it. Vindalho translates to Vin vinegar and Alho garlic. Prince Charles is said to love it. The origins of this dish are believed to be linked to the Portuguese vnha dalho, a garlic flavoured wine vinegar. There are sweets galore in the cuisine but the dodol (goan halwa) which I have tweaked by substituting ragi instead of rice is very popular in our restaurant," she adds.