Goa "Gastronomically yours" Food Bytes my column in The Sunday Standard

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Monish Gujral Last Updated : 02 Sep 2011 02:53:17 PM IST
Goa is not only my perfect hideout to relax and swim in the rough sea waters of the Arabian Sea but also a haven for foodies. Whenever I am choked by the city life’s over-demanding maladies, I run to my quiet and quaint cottage surrounded by small hills, overpowering green trees and a beautiful tributary of the Baga river. Goa, the land blessed with splendid scenic beauty, golden beaches, beautiful rivers and lakes and architectural splendours, is undoubtedly a ‘tourist’s paradise’.
But yes, there’s much more to Goa than its beaches. The tiny emerald land can boast of its unique history and culture. The culture here shows the confluence of the East and the West. The state is home to both beautiful temples and magnificent churches. The cuisine here is an extraordinary amalgamation of Portuguese and local sensibilities.
The long period of Portuguese rule, besides that of the Muslim and Hindu kingdoms, has left a strong influence on the novel approach of Goan cooking.
It is here that I discovered the diverse cultures, religions and cuisines that Goa is all about.
From the routes discovered and used by the Portuguese came a host of plants/roots producing juicy fruits and vegetables never seen or heard of before such as potato, tomato, pumpkin, aubergine, cashew nut, pimento (chilli), papaya, passion fruit, pineapple and guava to enrich our diet.
Food and recipes were not always introduced in their original form, and instead modified according to availability of ingredients, climatic conditions and local taste thus leading to fusion of Goanese cuisine.
Today, Goa is again going through a food and cultural revolution with many foreigners who have made the state, their home and brought with them their culture and cuisine.
Goan food today is a fusion of many cuisines such as Arab, Konkan, Malabar, Malaysian, Portuguese, Brazilian, French, African, Sri Lankan, Italian and even Chinese. The history of the evolution of Goan cuisine not only helps us to understand the complex processes of assimilation and exclusion, it also serves as an exemplar of Indian multiculturalism.
On my recent visit to Goa, I went swimming on the Ashwem Beach, in North Goa, near my house. As usual, after hours of swimming and running on the beach followed by the usual craving for good food and wine brought me to an amazing restaurant, with an unusual name, ‘KU’.
Hidden behind palm trees, off the beach, was this restro-shack run by an Austrian chef. A narrow cobbled pathway with a water body alongside led to this dining space built on a high wooden platform, about eight feet from the ground level overlooking the beach on one side and the dense green forest on the other, dimly lit with earthen lanterns, with floor seating, large wooden and tiles tables and a hand-written menu which read ‘Todays Menu’.
Thinking about the meal, I had that day, still sweats my salivary glands, even today.
For starters, there was pan fried tofu delicately spiced, sprinkled with colourful caviar, shrimp cocktail, bruschetta with fresh goat cheese and dry red wine.
The main course consisted of sesame jumbo prawns, crab cakes and buttered exotic vegetables on the side served with crisp garlic toast and the dessert orange pan cakes stuffed with truffle and berry cream glazed with sherry.
Goanese cuisine is rich in spices— Chakutti masala is used for fish and vegetable preparations.
Cashew also has a dominant role to play. Goanese staple food consists of rice, curry, fish/vegetables and pickles, depending on the economic status.
Goans are basically non-vegetarian. Fish is an important item of their diet and the Goanese fish curry is liked by all. Rice is eaten in different forms.
Rice for meals is boiled in water and drained. Hindus cook it without salt.
A canjee is also made of rice.
In the past canjee was cooked in a container called modki and was popular as breakfast or as a light meal when ill. Rice flour is also used to make a variety of roasted breads. Curry is made of coconut juice or by grinding coconut shavings to a fine paste with chillies, garlic, turmeric, dry coriander and tamarind.
My other favourite Goanese dishes include Malbari crabs, jumbo fried prawns, mussels and a vast variety of fish to choose from.



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First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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