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Gourmet Secrets: Mumbai’s little slice of Goa

Heartsick for one of the nicest parts of the country but cannot visit now? Head to a certain restaurant to ease the ache

brunch Updated: Mar 17, 2018 21:08 IST
Karen Anand
Karen Anand
Hindustan Times
Margao Choriz and Bacon Pulao at O Pedro, Mumbai
Margao Choriz and Bacon Pulao at O Pedro, Mumbai(Sanjay Ramchandran)

Goa is undoubtedly one of the nicest places to be in the country. A wonderful juxtaposition of old and new, of a colonial past which is sliding, albeit slowly, into a modern artsy, attractive place to live. The food follows suit. You have the best of local fare still available in little fish curry joints and some of the best International style restaurants all happily coexisting; a never-ending list of opposites... fun and frolic, the siesta and the fiesta.

Hidden cuisines

The Portuguese came to India well before the British, and left Goa in 1961. Many Portuguese recipes, including those from their colonies in Africa and their explorations in the Americas, are cooked in Goa even today. Goan home-style cuisine is a curious blend of Indianised Portuguese flavours; of subtlety and spice. Portuguese specialties like rissois – little half-moon pasties – and caldeirado – an onion fish stew – are enjoyed as much as the pungent Goa sausage, a spicy sister of the Spanish and Portuguese chorizo, and sheeth kodi, local curry and rice.

The Goan Hindu kitchen, which has a vast repertoire of dishes, is confined to small eateries and homes within Goa, whereas Catholic dishes are notoriously famous both in Goa and abroad. I was thrilled to discover O Pedro, a slice of Goa in Mumbai, serving traditional Hindu and Catholic inspired dishes, simple preparations well prepared and served in small or large plates depending on whether you want to taste or indulge. They even have simple grills with reichade (written “resh-ado”), and cafrael sauce options, and the most divine smoked pork ribs “vandal-loo” and buff “assa-do”, all phonetically written for the lay person. Some of the recipes are completely traditional but most are modern interpretations of classics, like the wonderful sourdough ‘poee’, that fabulous local bread which is like a healthy version of the pitta. O Pedro serves them warm straight out of the oven with the most divinely creamy balchao and choriz butters.

Miles for smiles

A dish close to my heart in any Goan meal is the pullau served towards the end of the meal after snacks and prawns and fish and pork. It is usually yellow with turmeric which the Goans refer to as “saffron”. It is light and fluffy and made with basmati, not Goan red rice. The use of basmati also implies a certain status to the dish. It may have peas and prawns, but it always has a piece of choriz or Goan sausage which really sets it apart from other rice dishes. Pullaus were considered superior to the biryani in medieval Delhi. They were made with rice, meat and meat stock cooked together whereas in biryanis, rice was cooked separately and then mixed with cooked or marinated meat and then cooked again. The Goan sausage pullau is a local Goan version of the Portuguese rice dish arroz de camarão or prawn pullau, made with Goan chouriço instead of, or with prawns. This one is much more simple than the original, which entails making an elaborate prawn stock.

Goa sausages or chouriço (pron: choriz) is a spicy, deep red cousin of the Portuguese and Spanish chorizo sausage. Made with chopped pork, salt and spices, the mixture is stuffed into a sausage casing, cured, dried and traditionally smoked over burning coconut shells. The method is native to the Iberian Peninsula, but the Goans have added red chili and toddy vinegar to produce this indispensible item in the Goan larder. They are always cooked and should never be eaten raw.

The best sausages I have found in Goa come from Dominic and Rosalina Fernandes near Margao. This is a small family business worth talking about. They do everything from brining the pork to grinding their own masalas and making their own toddy vinegar. The sausages are then slow smoked over burnt coconut shells, dried, cured and smoked again. Very few traditional food artisans still smoke Goa sausage in this way.

I would go drive many miles just to eat these two dishes at O Pedro – the poee with choriz butter and the Margoa choriz and bacon pullau with a fried egg on top!

Margao Choriz & Bacon Pulao at O Pedro

Serves 4

Ingredients:

400 gm Goan choriz cooked in 4 cups water for 30 minutes

200 gm bacon lard rendered

¼ cup bacon fat

1 piece cinnamon stick

2 cloves

2 cups onions

2 cups diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

3 scallions, white and green sliced thin

2 cups basmati rice

4 cups chicken/pork stock

Salt to taste

Coconut vinegar to taste

2 fried eggs (optional)

Method:

1. Put the rice in a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water from the tap. Swish the grains around gently with your hand, and then pour out the water. Wash the rice about 10 more times in this way, until the washing water loses its murkiness and remains clear. Drain the rice in a sieve, transfer to a container, and reserve in the fridge.

2. In the meantime, heat the bacon fat in a large wide pot over moderate heat until warmed through and add the cinnamon and cloves. Cook about 1 minute, or until the spices are fragrant.

3. Add the onion, scallion (only white part) and cook, stirring, until softened (don’t let it colour), about 10-15 minutes.

4. Add the bay leaves and tomatoes, heat through and season. Cool and reserve.

Bring the stock to a boil in a separate pot over medium heat.

5. Combine the rendered bacon, cooked chorizo and onion tomato masala in a large pot and stir, cooking slowly over moderate heat. Add the boiling stock and sprinkle in the washed rice and the scallion greens. Season with salt and coconut vinegar as needed

6. Reduce the flame to low, cover the pot and cook for 15-20 min approx or until the rice is cooked but not mushy.

7. You could top the rice with a fried egg and serve it with a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Author Bio: Culinary expert and explorer Karen Anand has been writing extensively on the subject of food and wine for 30 years. Apart from having her own brand of gourmet food products, she has anchored top rated TV shows, run a successful chain of food stores, founded the hugely successful Farmers Markets, and worked as restaurant consultant for international projects, among other things. Her latest passion is food tours, a totally curated experience which Karen herself accompanies, the first of which was to Italy.

This is a fortnightly column. The next edition will appear on April 1.

From HT Brunch, March 18, 2018

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