The patrao has his priorities down pat! The food has to be homecooked, sumptuous, with the freshest of seafood and meat to wallop away, quite literally. IT should do the talking, not the frills that towners give much importance to. So this week, we head, like most of Bengaluru, to Goa, it is only right that we explore the small tiny bars, cubbyholes, thatched roof eating joints and threadbare homes-turned-eating places hidden in the villages that even today, are run by Goan families, and serve the most fingerlicking homecooked Goan fare. So, “wannabe” impressions be damned, go loco on local in village style. They might not come in pretty packages, but when the tummy is happy, who cares? Since the season will come to a close in May… if you want to exude that siesta-seeking soul after a traditional Goan lunch or dinner, read on! The first on the list is Amigos, perched on the Nerul River, near Candolim. It’s known for its crabs, butter garlic and recheado, ideally call its shy owner Sabita who turned her home
into the most idyllic but very basic shack on the river, and order in advance, so you get the best … or you might have to chomp on tiny crustaceans instead of the real clawey deal! They are delicious, perfectly cooked, orange, plump with that potion of butter and garlic with some fat fries to complete it. Spectacular. The recheado masala here is spiced, tangy and wow. Order sausage chilli fry, rawa masala fried prawns and red snapper recheado too. The freshness of masalas being cooked whiffs past from the kitchen next door in this tiny basic village joint. You can even go on a boat ride or fishing as they do rides as well and there are some hidden back waters that show you a sunny state that’s untouched too.
Goan cuisine and the innumerable thalis available at the innumerable bars is synonymous with local fare. If we like our anna sambhar, they love their xit kodi (rice and curry)! Amigos serves it with fat rice (or normal), a crispy fried bhangda with bhaaji, papad and pickles. Mouth watering. There is also See You, hidden behind the Nerul Church, that serves thali with a more Hindu influence, bhaaji, prawn curry and sol kadi et al. In Panjim, one must go to Peeps Kitchen in Caranzalem, where the young affable owner’s serve a delicious fish curry thali which comes packed with a home cooked wholesomeness, the best of bhaajis or greens, a portion of crab masala or some seafood curry, flakey fried fish, and tisro or clams to go with sol kadi made with kokum and coconut milk — it’s perfect with rice and fish fry. Slurp! Ritz Classic in Panjim and Porvorim serves a wonderfully sumptuous thali, with kismur or dried prawns, crab, tisro and other seafood with enough rice to make you tachi endlessly!
When it comes to the meat route, the sunny state is known for its delicious recheado masala, which every Goan home makes fresh. Babazin’s Shack in Reis Margos is quaint and serves the best tisro (clams) I have eaten, though it does crunch a bit sandy… not too coconutty, and cooked right with a pav, unde or poie, the local breads that every home eats even today.
From Goa’s unmistakable and indelible Portuguese influence like its chorizo and meats, Jesuit priests introduced leavened bread and taught the local poder (Goan baker) to make it as a form of livelihood. Today, every village has a bakery (or two) and home delivers it morning and evening, a cycle with the poder bearing a basket of breads, honks the arrival.
A few bakeries still use toddy to leaven it, though today, it’s commercial yeast. The chonak or sea bass rava fry at Babazins is perfectly cooked, with a masala flakeyness. Perched where the River Mandovi meets the sea, it’s also picturesque and calming to watch the waves do that everlasting dance on the shores.
When it comes to meats, Bhatti Village in Nerul has been serving the best pork roast, crispy silver fish and beef roast for years. Locals love it, and it’s also a cornucopia of olden day Goan toddy bottles, vessels, urlis dotting the ceramic-walled cubby hole.
The one thing that you won’t get in a city is the homely warmth of a Goan restaurant… and the freshness of seafood. Eldos in Siolim in the courtyard of a home, serves delicious pork roast, fejuado and sausage chilly fry… the portions are large… there are potato chops, sausage and some interesting vegetarian as well (rare in these parts!), though basic, they also sell the season’s freshest urak in case you want a bottle!
The Portuguese left their mark with the meats and marinades. The pork, beef and tongue roasts at Avozin, a Goan family who opened their home’s courtyard on the Candolim main road, serves among the most delicious, beautiful roasts, and the best fish cutlets ever. The family-run joints in the sunny state have a toasty warmth, ease and simplicity that you will not get elsewhere. If you are the kind that wants more than wholesome basic food, this is not for you, as there are no frills. Just delectable bites. As it should be. Away from the hospitality route, not swayed by passing fads and fancies, regular jevan (meal)… For chicken Cafreal, Florentine’s in Saligao still rules the roost, after years in the business (though it not the original Portuguese immigrant!), and it serves a crisp Bombay duck too. Ask for more gravy, dunk that fresh poie and gorge away. Siesta is only better when you’ve had a good Goan meal!
For a fish or prawn curry thali
Peeps Kitchen: Thali
Ritz Classic; Thali and seafood
Viva Panjim: Sausage Pulav and Portuguese
dishes like Balchao, etc
Martin’s Beach shack Caranzalem: Mussels
Coqueiros: Sausage chilly fry, pork roast and leitao.
Near the North beach belt
Bhatti Village: Roasts and pork asad
Amigos: Crabs and thali
John’s Shack (on the Nerul Bridge Road): Thali
See You: Thali and seafood
Avinay: Thali and seafood
Babazin: Thali and seafood
Anand Shack (on way to Morjim)
A meal for two: Rs 400 onwards
A thali: Rs 150 onwards