Few people are lucky enough to have Goan family and friends living in the state, who would invite them over for a traditional home-cooked meal.
Goans are passionate about their cuisine, their ingredients and their age-old methods of cooking, all of which reflect in the taste of the food. The grinding of dry roasted spices on the rogdo, (a strong, round, semi-circular mortar and pestle), cooking of curries in the kundlem/cudnem, (a traditional pot made of clay), grating coconuts on the adavo – all of this and so much more make Goan cuisine distinct and drool-worthy!
Perhaps that’s why restaurants and hotels (even the popular ones) don’t come close to truly replicating the taste of real Goan food – that cooked by our grandmothers. With shortcut recipes, pre-made curries and off-the-shelf spices, our cuisine – an invaluable part of our heritage – is marred, quick-fixed and lost.
One local business, The Goan Kitchen, has been doing things right by re-creating the authenticity of taste and styles of Goan cooking. Located in Loutolim, The Goan Kitchen is run by two locals – Oliver Fernandes and Crescy Baptista, who honour recipes that are handed down through the generations. The kitchen is run by an army of local women from the village – who peel, chop, grind, saute, fry, pack – like clockwork. At The Goan Kitchen, old recipes, consistency, process, attention to detail, quality, and commercialization come together to preserve Goa’s culinary heritage in an attempt to take real Goan cooking to India and the world.
The Goan Kitchen has many offerings – and personally, I find it hard to choose a favourite! At the outlet in Margao, you’ll find rows upon rows of pickles, masalas and marinades. From pickles ranging from carrot to brinjal, chicken to karela, bombil to Tendli, to Prawn Balchao, Mackeral Para, Pork Molho and more – you can take your pick from a tantalizing array. The masalas and marinades are popular among Goans living in different parts of the country and abroad. Not to mention, they make for great gifts, too! If you’re lucky, you’ll also find Choris sausages that are unlike those you’d pick up off a supermarket shelf – and since my family has tried it, every choris dish we’ve had since then ends with the statement, “It’s good but not as good as The Goan Kitchen’s choris!”
That’s not all! The Goan Kitchen outlet in Margao has a daily selection comprising of different starters/snacks, mains and desserts – a total of about 20-24 items that change every day. On one day, tuck into starters like Prawn Rissois, Egg Chops, Fish Cutlets and Vegetable Pasteis, and on another, Fish Croquettes, Chutney Sandwiches, Pan Rolls, Fish Cones, Forminhas and Empadinhas. Alongside, are mains – Goan Pulao, Ukde Rice, Recheado Lady Fingers, Pepper Chicken, Feijão Curry…
What’s a Goan meal without dessert? The unending list of their desserts includes Cajuzinhos, Tender Coconut Pudding, Dry Fruit Custard, Chocolate Salami, Serra Dura, Bebinca and Rum Balls. On Saturdays, you’ll find Dedos de Dama, a yummy dessert of Portuguese origin that was once popularly found at Catholic weddings but is a rare find today. Dedos de Dama is also called Maiden’s Fingers. Roasted and ground cashew nuts and coconut is shaped into fingers and dipped in caramel. It is sticky, crunchy and tastes marzipan-like.
Take your pick and head upstairs to The Goan Kitchen’s seating area to dine in-store, or parcel some up to enjoy with your family at home.
While the daily menu is one small part of what The Goan Kitchen offers, this evolving local business takes orders for small parties and celebrations too. Request for their pre-order menu with an elaborate mix of Goan Catholic and Hindu cuisines. The expansive menu also contains an ‘Almost Forgotten’ section that has more than the done-to-death Goan dishes you find on menus across the state.
Come Easter or Christmas, the brand offers a special ‘Meal for 4’ comprising of a feast-like selection of dishes that can be pre-booked and delivered across Goa. This concept has been widely appreciated by Goans abroad, who wish to send their families, ageing parents or relatives/friends a meaningful surprise during the festival.
I’ve saved the best for last! The Goan Kitchen’s Tasting Menu is a homely, intimate experience with immense attention to detail. Book an exclusive experience comprising of a lavish spread of Goan food and enjoy it under the shade of a mango tree in the garden outside the business’ commercial kitchen in Loutolim. Bookings are available for groups ranging from 2-8 and cost between Rs 2500 to Rs. 3000, for an experience that can last for between 2.5-3 hours. Watch the grinding of spices, try your hand at grating coconut, drink water poured from a gurgulet, and enjoy a sumptuous curated meal that will have you bursting at the seams.
By Jade Dsa
Images by: The Goan Kitchen and Jade Dsa