A delectable Goan affair

A food festival that showcases the rich culinary history of Goa

Updated - June 27, 2014 10:29 pm IST

Published - June 27, 2014 05:17 pm IST - Kochi

“People think the Portuguese took most of the spices from India, but truth be told, while we had pepper here, they were the ones who brought us the chilli,” says Chef Peter Fernandes from across the table. Seated at the Latest Recipe restaurant at the Le Meridian hotel, Peter tells many an interesting story on the history of Goa, its culture, and most importantly, its food. And the food of Goa is in the limelight, thanks to the ongoing Goan food festival at the restaurant.

As we dig into some cheese stuffed mushrooms fried with breadcrumbs (which give you the flavour of each ingredient in layers as you chew through), crab cakes and crumb fried sliced beef, Peter explains how the residents of Goa indulge themselves in small snacks for breakfast and lunch, with these delicious tidbits combined with a variety of breads. A super soft and pillowy version of paav complements a delicious Goan beef preparation while a selection of other options awaits further experimentation. There is regular, slightly harder paav, and the flatter poi bread, to name a few.

While the regular cuisine from the restaurant menu is still available, an entire section of Goan food stands out to greet diners. Rice that Peter brought specifically from Goa, combined with a flavourful yet mild prawn curry, brings back memories of casual Sunday lunches at home. “While there are similarities between Goan and Kerala cuisine, with both sharing the same coastline, the major difference is in the use of spices. While Kerala cuisine is much spicier, Goan cuisine, due to the many foreign influences, is higher on flavour while toning down the spice,” Peter explains. And this is evident in most of the dishes, with one shining example being the chicken cafreal, one of the signature dishes from Goa. The juicy chicken highlights the sharper flavours of vinegar and the marination, giving it a distinct taste. Peter explains that the dish originated in Mozambique, with the early cooking methods having the chillies pierced onto the meat itself, while modern methods marinate and grill the meat.

To get the full flavour of Goa, other dishes to look out for are the pork vindaloo and sorpotel and the pork solane, which, Peter claims, is a forgotten dish that he is attempting to revive. “The solane is made of bone meat, and uses chilli, cocum, tamarind and toddy-based vinegar instead of conventional masala. It is originally from South Goa and even though I am from the northern side I’m promoting the cuisine of the South because I enjoy it more.”

Peter plans to try all the popular Goan recipes with different meats, in order to cater to a wider audience.

If there’s room left for dessert, check out the Goan specials, the pudding like bebinca, the thick and powdery jaggery-infused dodol, or the sweet burfi-like doce. For something more conventional, there is the usual selection of tarts and the ever-popular ice cream teppanyaki counter for those who love a little cold fusion.

The Goan food festival is on for dinner at the Latest Recipe restaurant till June 29.

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