“The Portuguese travelled along the coast of India from Bassein in Maharashtra to Kolkata in Bengal and settled in various parts en route. Some married into Indian families too and as a result, a unique Indo-Portuguese cuisine came into being,” says chef Swamy, who recently brought to the fore the Portuguese contribution to Indian cuisine.
From the making of cheese to staples like potato, tomato, chillies and even bread, much of our existing food can be attributed to the Portuguese. Yet we know little about their versatile food. Likewise, the Anglo-Indian community’s contribution to the Indian culinary repertoire includes their unique adaptations of local ingredients and spices such as the popular bottle masala.
At a recent pop-up event, Swamy combined recipes from the two communities. He chose two dishes from the Anglo-Indian community — the curried lamb and the English Trifle — which have become synonymous with Indian food over the years, and presented a variety of his signature dishes that are popular in his restaurants across Pune, Delhi and Mumbai.
The a la carte menu included appetisers, mains and desserts along with signature bread and rice dishes from the communities. The small plates included dishes like Bhujing, made with flattened rice and chicken wrapped in leaves and roasted on coal; vegetarian and prawn Risoles, deep fried patties stuffed with spiced fillings, and prawns marinated in coastal green masala and smoke cooked in a tandoor.
Under the main course, was a choice of dishes like Lonvas (made with the popular Anglo-Indian bottle masala, coconut milk and stalk), Vegetarian and fish chinchoni, a dish that translates to sour, and is made with kokum and local spices like clove, cinnamon, turmeric among others; Curried lamb in a lentil sauce served with pasta. Red rice creme brulee and an English Trifle wrapped up the dessert.
Given the treatment of the recipes — the Bhujing, for example, was roasted in the tandoor — one wonders if these are traditional recipes or his take on the classics. Turns out, traditionally they are made the way Swamy did, using poha and spices which are grilled over coal in a banana leaf. “It was a mill worker’s meal made early in the morning before the workers head to work in Vasai region Mumbai. This dish is a local street food dish that is eaten even today,” Swamy sharas, while explaining how in regions of Goa and Gujarat, meat is still cooked on a coal fire, wrapped in jute.
The bottle masala, used in lamb curry, is a blend of 28 to 32 spices and is made only in the summer months by the Anglo-Indians. “The masala would be stored in coloured glass bottles and sealed with cloth and wax and used throughout the year. At the pop-up event, the masala was used in three dishes to showcase its versatility,” he says.