Curry Guide… Goan Cuisine

 

1024px-India_Goa_Chapora_River_Boats.jpg

The food in Goa is quite distinctive from the rest of the India, despite it being one of the smallest states in the country and home to fewer than 1.5 million people. Its location along the western coast of the country, by the Arabian Sea, means seafood features prominently in its cuisine and because its population is largely Christian (Catholic), thanks to just over 450 years of Portuguese occupation, beef and pork are also common, unlike in the rest of India. Chillies are also important in Goan cuisine having been introduced to to the country by the Portuguese in 1498. Curries without chillies, who’d have thought? The Indians used peppers for heat before that.

The most famous Goan dish is Vindaloo, which is a favourite of all heat lovers. Vin means vinegar, thanks to the southern Europeans and the aloo bit is for the amount of garlic in it (the aloo bit is commonly confused as meaning potato because “aloo” means “potato” in Hindi and chunks of the good old spud is in the dish. The traditional dish, cooked with loads of vinegar and pork, is nothing like the curry house dish you’ll get in Britain, although it does share the heat levels.

Other well-known Goan dishes are Xacuti, a dish of chicken or prawns with chilli, white poppy seeds and coconut, and Cafrael, a Portuguese-Indian combination dish which uses a lot of coriander and lime juice and has its roots in Africa.

Photo: Zerohund Wikipedia.

Pretty in pink

Pink Chillies, Goa, India

Pink Chilli is a classy new restaurant situated inside the grounds of Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, a few minutes inland from the popular beach resorts and opposite the site of the Anjuna Saturday night market.

It’s been set up by the team that runs the Karma Café on Baga Beach, so you’ll find the same chilled atmosphere and super friendly welcome, just without the sand. It is one of the few places in Goa that is able to attract everyone – locals, holidaying Indians, Brits and Russians.

The Tandoori Lamb (Rps 400 a head) has to be ordered 48 hours in advance so it can be marinated. And, wow, how it is marinated. A thick tasty coating certainly penetrates the meat deeply after so many hours. Lamb (or sometimes mutton on menus) in Goa usually means goat, although the lamb here is imported from Maharashtra and once went ‘baa’ not ‘nanny’. Most of us curry lovers have seen this ‘order in advance’ dish on menus (it’s sometimes called Lamb Raan, which refers to the actual cut of lamb used) but few of us get round to ordering it. It’s worth it. Never have I seen a group of diners anticipating a meal such as this. From the cooking in the tandoor (cameras at the ready everyone) to the carving of the meat onto the trays, this really was an eating event.

To keep the anticipation to bearable levels, starters such as Chicken Chilli Fry (Rps 120), Prawn Chill Fry (Rps 140) and Masala Papads (popadoms loaded up with chopped onion, tomato, and chillies) provided a good selection to share around.

photo   photo

The couple who own this open-air restaurant – he from near Delhi, she from Liverpool – have created a beautifully styled venue. Pink is used on the walls, the place settings, the napkins and the menus (handmade with crushed paper), although the dark wood of the tables means the colour is not overpowering. Classic Indian posters have been framed and cover the walls, and the smart wooden carved chairs go well with the tables that have been converted from old Singer sewing machine frames. Coming soon, I’m told, will be a Tuk Tuk at the top of the stairs, where people can chill and enjoy a drink (and sure to be a hit among children and photographers). It will, of course, be painted in the restaurant’s trademark bright pink. Beep beep.

* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.

Pink Chilli, Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Arpora 403518, Goa, India. Open: daily.

Pink Chilli snapshot

Food 8⃣

Decor 🔟

Value8⃣

Atmosphere 9⃣

Service and friendliness 8⃣

The world’s best curry

McCain’s, Goa, India

This is it. This is the best curry I have ever tastest.

From left: Chicken Kolhapuri, Mushroom rice, Vegetable Kolhapuri, nan
From left: Chicken Kolhapuri, Mushroom rice, Vegetable Kolhapuri, roti, washed down with a Kingfisher beer

The narrow-fronted McCain’s can be found wedged between bars and shops in the busy Tito’s Lane in Baga, north Goa. It’s so unassuming it would be easy to miss (one person who’s been visiting the area for years and was staying within metres of McCain’s had never heard of it). It’s a simple fast-food style joint with benches and stools along both walls, while at the back, behind a glass screen, hang skewers of bright red, marinated tandoori, while other staff beaver away over the tawas. It’s always packed.

Service is superb and no matter how full it seems to be a bit of space and seats appear magically as soon as the staff see you enter. Why a swankier restaurant has not snapped up the staff, some of whom have been here a fair while, is a mystery.

Kolhapuri is a dish that comes from the city of Kolhapur to the north of Goa in Maharashtra, so it’s not a local dish, but it’s certainly a favourite in this tiny Indian state. Most recipes include coconut and there is often a giant chilli glistening away in the sauce. It’s a rich, hot and vibrantly coloured dish that is hard to stop eating, even when your stomach has had enough.

The Chicken Kolhapuri (Rs 120) certainly can’t be faulted, with the perfectly cooked chunks of off-the-bone meat, but this is really best as a vegetable dish. People of a certain age would text their friends ‘OMG’ at the first mouthful. As hot as a Vindaloo, as moreish as Tikka Masala, and as fresh as a Balti, the Vegetable Kolhapuri (Rs 100)  is a dish that has it all. Packed with potato, cauliflower, carrots, beans and paneer, I was soon piling up huge spoonfuls of the tasty, onion and tomato gravy onto the Mushroom rice (Rs 100) and tucking in. If you’re a mopper-upper type of eater then rotis come in at Rs 10. Either way, you will eat it and want more.

* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 85, $1 = Rs 54.

McCain’s Fast Food, Tito’s Lane, Baga, Goa 403 516, India. Tel: +91 9823 196848. Open: till 7am in season.

McCain’s snapshot

Food 🔟

Decor 3⃣

Value 🔟

Atmosphere (late weekday) 7⃣

Service and friendliness 9⃣

Curry quiz

See how you can do without Google. Answers at top of page where it says Curry quiz!

1. The Hindoostane Coffee House is widely acknowledged as Britain’s first curry house. In what year was it opened? (3pts for exact, 1 pt for within 5 years).

2. The Veeraswamy is Britain’ oldest curry house that is still open. In which famous Monopoly Street is it? (1pt)

3. Sag aloo includes which two main ingredients? (1pt if you get both)

4. Traditionally cooked with pork, what is Goa’s most famous dish? (1pt)

5. There are more than 13,000 curry houses in Britain? True or false? (1pt)

6. A Mongoose is particularly famous for fighting which snake? (1pt)

7. According to the British Curry Club what is the nation’s favorite curry? (1pt)

8. It was National Curry Week last week and they held a Poppadom Tower competition. How many poppadoms were piled high to create the record. (3pts for within 10, 1 pt for within 50).

9. The hottest curry in Britain is said to be the Rupali. In which city will you find it? (2pts)

10. Indian restaurants in Britain serve more than 2 million people every week. True or false? (1pt)

Spice on the beach

Karma Café, Goa, India

Although it’s not a Goan dish, Chicken Kolhapuri is found in many of the restaurants in the region. One of the best places to enjoy this spicy dish is in the super chilled beach bar, Karma Café.

Karma is run by the energetic owner Baba who’ll be seen doing everything from ferrying fresh fish from the market, serving beers, cooking food and fixing the pool table between spells of popping down to the beach to chat to his wife and little boy.

Kolhapuri is named after the town Kolhapur, which is to the north of Goa in Maharashtra. It’s about as hot as Goa’s most famous dish, vindaloo, but dare I say it, has more flavour, somehow combining burn-in-the-mouth fire with great taste at the same time. It’s addictive and should, of course, be washed down with a cold Kingfisher. Or three.

Watching it being cooked in the small kitchen out back is mesmerizing. Cooked in a pan heated to the limit over an open flame, the chef tosses in ingredients – onions, garlic, ginger, spices and chicken in turn, with the wild sizzle from the pan only being doused briefly when he adds a spoon of sauce from giant pot of masala sauce on the side. At the same time the chef uses a pot of steaming oil to cook popadoms fresh in seconds, the flat disk recoiling into its familiar post-cooked shape of curls and twists almost instantly.

Of course, it tasted better because I had watched it being cooked, but back at the table of this open-air restaurant, with my feet wiggled firmly into the sand floor and watching the moon bounce off the Arabian sea out front, it would be impossible not to get a kick from this dish.

Karma Café, Baga Beach, Goa, India. Open: about 10am–midnight (sometimes later) in season (October to April).

Karma Café snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④

Decor ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Thursday night) ① ② ③ ④

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Nothing like the real thing baby…

Jamies, Goa, India

Jamies is an oasis in the madness of Baga Road. When you’ve had enough of endless tooting horns (nobody seems to realise they are meaningless when used so often), hawkers, and dirt and grime of this vibrant road, pop into Jamies, without doubt one of the best restaurants in the area.

A beautiful restaurant, nicely designed and well laid so every table has plenty of space to breathe (you need it occasionally in India), this is relaxed outdoor eating at its best.

The restaurant specialises in barbeque and tandoor cooking so not everything is ‘Indian’ but the tasty Tarkari Jalfriezi (Rs 195) was hot and spicy and if anyone can find a more tender, tasty Murgh Tikka (Rs 195) than this place does then I want to know about it. Mop it all up with freshly cooked rotis (Rs 25 each) and Kingfishers.

* At the time of the visit £1 = Rs 70, $1 = Rs 45.

Jamies, 7/188 Sauntavaddo, Baga Main Road, Goa, India. Tel: 00 91 976 4362 379/976 4364 377.

Jamies snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④

Decor ① ② ③ ④

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Tuesday night) ① ② ③

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④