Maska Maarke: Oh poie! Goan food is back with a bang
Feijoada. Serradura. Kalchi Kodi. Want to get into a Goa state of mind? Just head to Juhu, BKC, or Lower Parel.mumbai Updated: Jun 16, 2018 12:03 IST
It was 1988. I had just got into advertising and my boss was a Goan. Sylvester daCunha came from purebred Portuguese-Goan lineage. He spoke Portuguese better than Konkani, wore suits, had a sprawling 500-year-old home in Arpora village, and even knew what Feijoada was. We travelled in Goa like natives, soaking in the heat, the hooch and Humann (fish curry and rice. Our days were blurred and the clammy evenings were a hunt for clams, sorpotel, and Feijoada.
Now about Feijoada. Anyone who lives in Portugal, or in any colony with Portuguese influence — and by colony I don’t mean St Peter’s Housing Colony in Bandra; I mean an erstwhile colony like Brazil, Mozambique, or Macau — will hail Feijoada as their national dish. Feijoada is a dish of beans cooked with pork. The Goans make an exceptional version with chillies, garlic, jeera, methi, coriander seeds, poppy seeds, garam masala, coconut and tamarind. It’s not unusual for pulses or daal to be cooked together in India, but it takes a little guts to combine rajma and ‘dukor’. Trust me, the pasty beans and tender fat in a spicy gravy, with hot pao, is a meal that calls for susegado.
In 1988, there was only one place in Mumbai where you could sit in air-conditioned comfort, wipe goa sausage up with poi, slurp sungtyachi curry with rice, snack on papads stuffed with crab, chug some feni with Limca, and listen to a Pedro with a fiddle belt out Elvis songs in a Konkani accent. That colourful, merry place with the atmosphere of a carnival was Goa Portuguesa near Shivaji Park and it is still standing exactly where we left it.
For years, they were the only one. Many tried and many failed; no one could create enough interest to sustain a stylish Goan food restaurant. Until now.
Three Goan restaurants have opened in Mumbai in just the past three months — O Pedro in BKC, House of Lloyd’s in Juhu and Lady Baga at Kamala Mills — and I think the interest in Goan food has grown one dish at a time.
O Pedro is the brainchild of the Bombay Canteen guys (Yash Bhanage and Sameer Seth) along with Floyd Cardoz of New York. I’m a bit of a zealot when it comes to traditional Indian food and I have to admit I walked into Flyod’s New York restaurant, Paowalla, with trepidation and walked out, well, happy but not overjoyed.
But I like what they do with their food at Bombay Canteen and I love what they’ve done with Goan food at O Pedro. Crispy Pork Chicharones, crunchy, puffy pieces of deep-fried pork skin, in Mexico served with salsa or guacamole but at O Pedro accompanied by a chatpata dip. Kal-chi-ko-di Devilled Eggs, the eggs served with last night’s curry (because curry always tastes better the next day). Foo Gath (vegetables, usually cabbage, cooked with coconut) Brussels sprouts. Also Baffats, Udda-Methi, Shek-Shek, Caldeen and Assado, all traditional Goan home-style dishes done in an inimitable style that is so Bombay Canteen.
Now Lady Baga is a tribute to every Mumbaikar who has stayed at Ronill’s, eaten at Antony’s or Britto’s, lazed all day in a shack at Baga beach, or taken motorbike holidays in hot and sweltering Bardez. The Goa fest starts before you can get to the door. The décor is as kitschy as it can get, with the beads and tie-die so reminiscent of the psychedelic ’70s hippy invasion of the state. It’s also a feast of cocktails here. Liquid pleasure. Moonshine and Hooch, with Palm Feni. Bloody Marianna, the Mary with vinegar and salt. A Baga Bong with White Rum and Cointreau. The food is simple and truly Goan. Pork Vindaloo, Chargrilled Rechado Crabs, Chicken Guisado, Rissóis Prawn, and Goan home-style mutton chops in spicy green masala.
Finally, the last Goan opening. House of Lloyd’s. I’d met chef Lloyd Braganza when he came over to my sister, Monika’s, house to display some of his maverick ways over a barbeque. The charming man won us over right then with his Pork Chops in a secret marinade. After running House of Lloyds in the village of Saipem, Goa, he’s here in Juhu, and his menu reads like a Goan telephone directory. His dishes are named after friends and family (I am guessing) from whom he’s deftly borrowed his recipes. Nerissa’s Chicken Peri Peri, Ananth Gadho’s Omelettes. Robert’s Pork Sausage Pate, Nathan’s Tongue Roast and Tia Morgarita’s Mutton Jeeremeere. For the uninitiated, Jeeremeere is as Goan as the Zuari and is a tangy and spicy coconut curry with cumin, pepper and sour buttermilk, eaten with rice.
Lloyd’s menu comes straight from the homes of Goa and includes Goan staples like Keelhaul (raw banana flower), Tender Cashew, Kismur (crispy dry shrimp salad) Amboti, Balchao, Sorpotel, the works. But the highlight will always be what Lloyd is best known for: His grill.
Sylvester daCunha, past eighty, doesn’t get out much, but still perks up when he hears the word sorpotel. I swear I’m going to try to get him to step out, and take him to one of these joints, after his evening drink.