A Goan Sojourn


I have been traveling a lot the last few months.  About a month ago (or was it two?), one such work-related trip took me to Goa for a week.  Immediately upon arrival it was conveyed to the client that in the interest of the tourism-related nature of our project, it was imperative that we experience authentic Goa as much as possible.  We were to stay in Panjim but our sites criss-crossed the state and there was much opportunity to enjoy the landscape and local food.  I and my colleague Tushar were very lucky to have Sunil and Isha, ethnic Goans to boot, be our companions through the week who guided us through some fabulous Goan lunch menus as well as foodie shopping while making sure we started work early and stayed on the job late.

We got off to a great start, arrive as we did at lunch time.  I don’t seem to have pictures of that first lunch of pomfret fry and cafreal; it was too early in the meeting to whip out the camera at the sight of food I suppose.  We talked about food and Goan rice, and I let it slip that I write a food-blog.

Colva Beach

Many of the sites were by the beach but it was not tourist season yet, and the locals had the beach and the sea to themselves.  There is something about the sun setting over sea that gets to us and pictures are not always able to capture the full magic.

[I pick the thread up again, after a gap of a few (six!) months, and the memories less sharp…]

placemat, O'Coqueiro
placemat, O'Coqueiro

For lunch, another day, we visited O Coqueiro, Portuguese for “the coconut tree”.  It was past 2 o’clock and there were few people still at lunch.  The place mats looked interesting – plans and elevations of the house we were eating in, how could that fail to impress the architect in me! We were seated in the sala de jantar of primeira casa.  I took a look at Chef Peter’s Goan Specials on the table menu.  Samarachi curry, a Goan specialty made with sun-dried shrimp in coconut milk, was at the top.  I was hesitant, know as I well do how dried seafood can stink.  But Sunil, the native Goan Catholic, elaborated that it was a local favourite especially in the wet months when the catch from the sea is low.  I almost settled for the tried-and-tested caldinho but then decided to throw caution to the Goan monsoon winds which hadn’t died down quite yet.

samarachi curry and rice

samarachi kodi
Samarachi kodi, served on Goan rice with pickled mackerel.

It is a most delicious curry and I could not have enough.  I would have packed the leftovers had I not had another few days to spend in the local hotel.   The pickled mackeral served on the side was intensely salty and vinegary, and complimented the curry well.  Samarachi kodi, in my opinion, is the best use yet for dried shrimp (some of which is still sitting in my other fridge).  I have been searching for a recipe since but there are few on the Web. I would like to research a bit before I try a less-familiar cuisine. I have just ordered a few (more!) Indian cookbooks this week…

o coqueiro
 A statue of Charles Sobraj, the famous fugitive, in the veranda of O’Coqueiro, where he was captured; the caramel custard didn’t make the cut for me

Isha ordered prawn racheado(?), memories of which are blurred.  To accompany the shrimp, she ordered poie, a local bread.  I cannot believe that even after quite a few visits to Goa, I was unaware of this amazingly soft, traditional wholewheat bread.  Its soft crumb is just made to soak up the coconut-ty Goan curries.  I fell in love with this bread and carried a dozen home, thanks to the generosity of Isha, who procured them for me from her regular podar on my last morning in Goa.  There are many types of Goan breadspao, poie, and undde, each of them the domain of family bakers, a tradition that is under threat given the cheaper pricing of factory breads.  Presently, the price of poie is regulated with the podar receiving subsidised flour from the state.  I can only hope that these truly artisanal bakeries will somehow survive, thrive.  All they need is a ‘label’ (artisanal!); some fads aren’t bad.

viva panjim
Another memorable lunch at Viva Panjim

This vada-pao chap was just too fast for me; he really was a blur of motion as he stuffed the pao with the potato vada and myriad chutneys – a great pairing with road-side chai.

Cafe al fresco - Bodega
Cafe al fresco – Bodega

Housed inside the Sunaparanta Centre for the Arts in Panjim, is the charming Cafe al fresco, Bodega.  The ambiance of the Portuguese-style courtyard cafe, surrounded by galleries showcasing local artists, is the perfect setting for a relaxed cup of tea or coffee.  It is famous for its daily-changing sandwich menu, as well as cakes.  But remember to go there early; it closes at 7:00pm.  We barely managed to order our coffees as the employees soon set about upturning the chairs and  turning the lights off gradually, signalling politely the end of their day.

With that I leave you till the next time.  I do hope it will be soon.

7 thoughts on “A Goan Sojourn

  1. Ah- Goa. It is more or less my favorite place in India. Enjoyed feasting virtually with you!

    It is definitely unique, like so much of India! Every time I visit again (Goa or other places), I discover new things – how little we really know!

  2. My mouth is watering. I have never been to Goa but would love to visit it one day. I might die from food coma.

    🙂 Make sure you plan multiple visits, so you live to tell the tale!

  3. Anita I have been wishing for a posting from you here it is and again just a little slice of life far away and different than life as I know it in Canada and the U.S.
    The photos and your words so well done.
    {Please take the time to write more

    Hi, Diane! Good to know some of my earlier readers are still tuned in! I, too, hope to write more frequently than I have been.

  4. Hmmm, based on your commentary and the appearance Goan rice is different. Is it a shorter grain? Still with some of the husk on? Or is it in the manner of preparation. Another Indian food mystery for me to unravel.

    Jen, Goan rice is a different variety. It is a short-grain rice, not fully polished so that it still retains some of that red hull there. It takes longer to cook than basmati, but I like it!

  5. What breathtaking pictures here! And the Goan rice look so inviting! Haha me posted about vada pao too 😀

    🙂 Goa always look beautiful!

  6. Long time,. Goa comes alive under your fingers !

    Yes, long time indeed…Thanks for sticking around!

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