Food lessons from Goa

1. If you have fish curry go for fresh not frozen. Getting fresh fish in your curry at home is not easy, of course, especially in restaurants. For cost and convenience most fish we get while out will be frozen (there is a bizarre fad to import tilapia, a Bangladeshi freshwater fish!) so if you find a restaurant that uses fresh, locally caught produce then treasure it. The difference is huge. Or you can always visit the fishmonger and cook your own.

2. Kolhapuri is a dish worth searching out. This dish, originating from a city called Kolhapur in Mahatashtra, is all over Goa, but I’ve never seen it on a menu here for some reason. As hot as a Vindaloo, as tasty as a Tikka Masala and as fresh as a Balti, this is the best dish I have ever tasted. Needless to say, I’d recommend you try it if you find it. Or better still ask the chef from your local curry house (especially if he’s from Maharashtra) to whip one up.

3. Vegetables don’t need to be consigned to side dishes. Most of us order our curry, rice and nan and, then, almost like an afterthought, we add some vegetables. Goa, like most of India, has a lot of veg-only restaurants, and they make you realise that veg doesn’t have to be an afterthought. Veg (make sure it’s fresh) is great for absorbing the spices and because the dishes are not as filling as meat equivalents you can eat more curry. What’s not to like?

4. Vindaloo is a Goan dish. Vindaloo is normally associated with six pints of lager and a metaphorical arm wrestle among friends to eat the hottest curry. It is, in fact, a dish that was born from Goa, when local spices were added to a vinegar-based dish brought to the area from the Portuguese. The most likely explanation for the name is that it is a cross between Vin (vinegar) and aloo (Hindi word for potato). The traditional meat used is pork, this being one of the few areas in the country where this meat is used extensively. While our restaurants still use a bit of vinegar the original recipe soaked the meat heavily in it.

5. A spicy omelette makes a great snack. Bored with your usual cheese omelettes? Masala omelettes can be whipped up in a couple of minutes. One egg, a chopped chilli, some chopped onion and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook, fold over in tissue and eat on the move.

Curry is not just for dinner. Parathas, stuffed with paneer, cauliflower and potato, plus pickles and raita, make a fine alternative to a fry up. I’m sure your local greasy spoon will oblige if you ask them nicely…

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