Maka zai: Memories of Goan feasts in Mumbai
Maska Maarke by Kunal Vijayakar: Where to get the best bangda-curry rice and sorpotel? It’s not Bandra. In fact, it’s quite a bit further south.Updated: Jun 02, 2018 17:52 IST
Suddenly, the Goans have attacked Mumbai and they’re au courant, happening and inspired. Three Goan restaurants opened in Mumbai in just three months. O Pedro in BKC, House of Lloyd in Juhu and Lady Baga at Kamala Mills.
Goan food hasn’t always been easy to find in Mumbai. Especially non-Gomantak Christian Goan food. For anyone looking for it, providence should have automatically taken you to Bandra West. After all, any and all platitudes say that if it’s Christian, it’s in Bandra. This may be somewhat true. After all Bandra does have a concentrated population of Christians, even Catholics. But in all my years as a food hunter, I never found a single Goan restaurant in Bandra. Possibly because all the land in the Bandra villages was owned by the Marathi-speaking East Indian community, and not the Goans.
The original Konkani-speaking Goans, however, made south Mumbai areas like Princess Street, Dhobi Talao and Mazagaon their berth. About 150 years ago, when large groups of young men from Portuguese Goa began migrating to this city in search of work, they shared rented rooms according to their native villages; kudds or clubs that were also named after the patron saints of that village.
These hungry souls missed their home food and had to be fed. So the first few Catholic Goan food joints opened in the gullies of Marine Lines and Dhobi Talao. Anton’s bangda-curry rice was famous. In Jer Mahal, opposite Metro Cinema, in a small dark room, bangda-curry rice was the only dish on the menu. Right behind Jer Mahal, on the corner of Jambul Wadi, is Castle Hotel, another old-style Goan eatery. The menu changes every day, but fish-curry-rice is staple.
C D’Souza, opposite Our Lady of Seven Dolours, is still standing. I went there about two years ago, to be welcomed by an empty room with empty tables and chairs. After I had walked to the back of the café, an old lady appeared and asked sweetly what I wanted. I pointed at the handwritten menu on chart paper, and asked for pork vindaloo, beef chilly (it was okay in those days) and pav.
She stared at me for a minute as if I might be an apparition. Then she yelled at another old lady, who turned out to be the cook, and asked her if she could cook up some chilly fry and vindaloo. The cook muttered something in Konkani and returned to the kitchen. The meal did arrive, albeit 30 minutes later; and it tasted of home. Freshly cooked, home-style masalas; simple, and spectacular.
Venice Caterers and Snowflakes Goan Restaurant used to both be in Dhobi Talao. Venice behind Dhobi Talao Market and Snowflakes at 1st Kalbadevi Lane. Venice has either shut down since, or the market is now so crowded and dirty that, even after walking up and down the lane, I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere.
Snowflakes gets surprisingly crowded at lunchtime, and has an extensive handwritten menu in cursive: Sausage Chilly Fry, Pork Sorpotel, Pork Vindaloo, Pork Chilly Fry, Bangda Rechad, Prawn Pulao, STEAK, AMOTIK, TONGUE ROAST and caramel Custard. I don’t know why the last three dishes are written in capital letters.
While I mourn the premature demise of City Kitchen, one of the finest Goan restaurants in Mumbai, pioneered by the late football player Sacru Menezes, between you and me, the last one standing is New Martin at Colaba, in the erstwhile Strand Cinema lane. Though the owners are Mangalorean, the sorpotel there is unbeatable. The vindaloo has the spice and aroma of eating in the bylanes of Panjim on a hot sweaty day. The fish curry is tangy and the fish and coconut are fresh.
My testimony to this place is that I go there at least twice a month, walking into Martin at Colaba and walking out on St Inez Road, Panjim.
I must of course discuss the three new Goan restaurants in Mumbai. But for that you’ll have to wait another week.