A Goan lady custom officer married to a Maharashtrian Brahmin doctor craving for prawns – and the story of Goa Portuguesa began. Hence began the culinary journey of a cooking Diva, who heretofore had to attend Dadar Catering College just to learn daily cooking to impress her in-laws. And it’s only apt that she decided to share all these recipes that we have been devouring over the years and hence Deepa Suhaas Awchat´s book “The Goa Portuguesa cookbook”. The book itself, well researched and written with care for even a novice at Goan cooking, is a delight! Who knows this may be an inspiration and another chef may be born when she cannot find the food she craves!
We trooped over to Goa Portuguesa to meet and to sample the recipes spiced with anecdotes and stories. We started with the Solkadi and Tender Coconut Punch. The punch was bang on with the freshness of lime, coconut and ginger. The soups served to us were Pumpkin soup and Caldo Verde soup. The latter, a traditional Goan Portuguese potato puree, spinach, milk and garlic soup was rich on flavours but what hit me with a bang and a boom was the humble pumpkin soup. I never thought I would say this for a vegetarian dish and that too a soup, but I can gladly gobble this instead of a chicken soup any day. It was so rich in flavour.
Our veg starters were Cottage Cheese Risois, Peas Potato chops, Cashew Roll and cottage cheese in red sauce. In non-veg starters we had Prawn Risois, Chicken Cafreal, Goan Fish with tartar sauce and Mutton Croquette. The risois was so fresh and full of flavour that it was easily the star among the starters. The lightly flavoured filling with chunks of prawns covered in crispy pastry was a gastronomic delight. The cafreal was fresh and spicy and set the tone for the afternoon. The surmai was lightly cooked to go with the frothy tartar sauce.
The veg mains were the Tender Coconut Cashew sukke, the Moongacho Gathi, and the Rajma Tondak. The moongacho gathi and the rajma were the kind of delicious staples that I had at my Maharashtrian friend’s cooked with love and ghee in equal parts. The non-veg mains were Chicken Xacutti and Mutton Vindalho, rich in Goan spices but not too spicy like the other Goan food I had come to expect. While great on taste, they were the usual fare. But what got us all raving was the Chili Pork roast with garlic pao. The meat was succulent and the gravy, soul–satisfying that one can gladly dip the pao and keep eating.
We finished off with Arroz and Prawn Curry. The delicious prawn curry was served with Amboli. The Arroz is like a Goan paella, rice cooked with lots of seafood and chicken. If there is only one dish you wish to order it should be this. It needs no accompaniments and no gravy. But since eyes are greedier than the stomach I ate it with Tendli Pickle. I had never associated a tendli with a pickle and yet it seemed the most natural combination.
No goan feast can be complete without caramel custard, Bebinca, Dodol made from nachni and sweet potato sago kheer. The latter being a speciality of Goan Hindus and I must admit, I devoured it all even though I was full.
The place and person are synonymous and exude charm that enfolds you. The ambiance of a Goan café, the glass paintings by Mario Miranda coupled with the warmth of its hosts made a pleasurable afternoon, memorable. Here is to wishing many more kitchens churning out Goan delicacies!