Food The Goan Food Festival at Novotel Hyderabad reflects Goa’s Portuguese heritage as well as its Malwani influence

Although Goa is better known for its beaches, the food one gets at Goa’s popular beach shacks is vastly different from the food in a traditional Goan household. The Goan food festival at Novotel Hyderabad involved a combination of food that captured Goa’s rich culture.

Influenced by Portuguese, Catholic and Malwani cultures, Goan cuisine is a perfect example of three diverse flavours coming together to create something unique. “Saraswat cuisine, influenced by Malwani food contains more vegetarian dishes and a higher degree of spice than Catholic or Portuguese food,” informs Chef Alexandre Pereira who, along with Chef Savio D’souza was in the city for the festival. “Portuguese dishes, on the other hand, are characterised by the use of pork and beef,” he says.

At the start of your meal, you will be offered a version of the Kokum Saar or Sol Kadhi, a staple in any Konkan thali. The drink is an appetiser made from Kokum, which replaces Tamarind as the souring agent in most Goan dishes. While traditionally Kokum saar is flavoured with Kokum, chilli, ginger and coconut milk in some cases, this version, created by Chef Alexander is a mix of Kokum and pineapple.

The rest of the menu, however, seems to stick to original recipes. Portuguese Goan food, according to Chef Alexander has three base masalas –Cafreal, Peri peri and Recheado. While the first is a spicy green paste made from freshly ground coriander and spices, Peri peri or piri piri is a fiery red sauce made from the African bird’s eye chilli.

The Recheado too is a spicy masala made from chilli and other spices ground in vinegar. Guests can try the chicken cafreal, a preparation of chicken marinated with cafreal masala and grilled. The fried prawns with semolina coating come with a serving of peri peri dipping sauce.

The menu also contains simple Goan dishes such as the bean sprouts fugaat, a mildly spiced, lightly sautéed preparation. “Every Goan thali will have a fugaat to complete the meal,” informs Chef Alexandre. Other vegetarian dishes include Vegetable Caldeen, a lightly spiced curry with coconut milk and the spicier Cashewnut and mushroom xacuti.

While the three cuisines are distinct, “the one thing that remains common to all of them is fish,” explains Chef Alexander. “Every Goan household will have fish curry for lunch on a daily basis.” The menu will contain the traditional Goan fish curry made with Kingfish, locally known as Surmai and the Fish Ambotik which as the name suggests (Ambot-sour, tik-spicy) is a sweet and spicy dish that goes well with steamed rice or better with Goan par boiled rice. It can also be had with Poee, a spiced goan bread or Sanna, a spongy cake made with fermented rice batter and toddy vinegar.

“The sweetness of Sanna is because of the use of Toddy vinegar which is another common ingredient in all Portugese Goan dishes,” says the chef. The vinegar is also used generously in the preparation of Goan chorizo sausages, also available at the festival. While you are there, also treat yourself to the homemade Goan pickles, including the prawn balchao, brought to the city all the way from households in Goa.

Other dishes to look forward to are the Goan desserts which include Bebinca, a layered gateaux made of eggs, gram flour and sugar, Dodol a sweet made from palm jaggery and rice flour and the lesser known Alebele, a pancake stuffed with coconut and jaggery. The festival is open for dinner till September 29 at The Square, Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre.