Mumbai food: Knowing the Gomantak curry's origins, best places to have it

Fish, coconut and kokum feature in all of them, but is the Gomantak curry the same as the Malvani, Koli or Mangalorean? Experts help you spot the difference

Aradhana Coastal Delight
Food: Good
Service: Quick
Ambiance: Comfortable

Surmai Thali. Pics/Suprita Mitter
Surmai Thali. Pics/Suprita Mitter

"Let's get a good Maharashtrian Fish thali today?" a friend suggested, and soon we headed to the newly opened Aradhana Coastal delight near Khar station. The swanky interiors resembled the likes of Mahesh Lunch Home and Trishna.

We couldn’t take our eyes off the vast menu, which included everything from Malwani Fish Curry to Allepy-Style Curry and Chicken Ghee Roast (Mangalorean). Also, on the list were a variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian curries, fish fries and an assortment of accompaniments that included Amboli, a soft dosa made from Urad dal and rice, Ghawan (a soft handkerchief dosa made from rice), bhakris made of rice and jowari, steamed rice and Malwani wade (puris made from multi grain flour).

Kombdi Wade
Kombdi Wade

We ordered a Surmai Thali (Rs 295), which included thick orange-ish gravy with one piece of the fish, steamed rice, usal, a jawla (dry fish chutney along with a jowari bhakris). The gravy with coconut and a mix of spices was perfect. Next, we opted for the Kombdi Wade (Rs 275), a thick chicken gravy with grounded masala, served with fluffy puris and washed it down with the quintessential Solkadi (a coastal digestive drink made with coconut milk and kokum, flavoured with chilli). The star of our meal was the hot, crisp Bombil Fry (Rs 245), which melted in the mouth. "The Bombil fry is not Gomantak," my fellow diner pointed out. In Mumbai, this style of cooking is broadly sold under the Gomantak food banner, but we couldn’t figure if our favourite item on the thali was Gomantak, Malvani, Marathi Bhandari style or belonged to another spot on the coastline. It was time to get our facts right. A quick web search told us that Gomantak refers to the cuisine of the Hindu community in Goa.

Bombil Fry
Bombil Fry

From Goa, with love
A call to Goan food expert, restaurateur Meldan D'Cunha confirmed this. "Goa has the Hindu Gomantak style of cooking and the Catholic style (influenced by the Portuguese)," pointed out D’Cunha, owner Soul Fry, Bandra. "The Gomantak cuisine does not use beef and pork like the Christian community. The dishes mainly include gravies. The names of some dishes are common in both communities, for example, Xacutti in the Christian community is spelt as Shagaoti in its Gomantak form. The curries are more yellow, orange or brown in colour in Gomantak cooking," he says.

Spot the difference
"In a Goan curry, fresh masalas are used and the curry is reddish in colour. Gomantak food uses Kokam, raw mango, lime and tamarind while the Portuguese style uses a lot of vinegar and also uses coconut milk," says food historian, Mohsina Mukadam. "You will also find the use of Byadagi chillies and Sankeshwari chillies sometimes mixed with Kashmiri chillies in the Gomantak style of cooking, she adds.

The Konkan connect
Goa shares a border with Karnataka and Maharashtra and cross influences are seen in the cuisines. "The Gomantak cuisine is not just from Goa but found majorly in areas of Mangalore like Karvar too. There is no use of garam masala in this style of cooking, it’s not pungent and doesn't use strong flavours," shares Smita Deo, home-chef and author of the book From Karvar To Kolhapur Via Mumbai. "In Goa, the original cuisine was the Hindu style. It wasn’t popular with tourists for many years as opposed to the Catholic styles, which were heavily marketed. There were no restaurants in Goa serving Gomantak food. It has caught up in the last decade," says Deepa Awchat, owner Goa Portuguesa. "Gomantak food has many vegetarian options. They also include fruits like raw papaya, jackfruit and pineapple in their food," she adds.

"In northern and southern Konkan and Malwan, the coconut and onion are roasted and ground to paste," says Mukadam, adding that the differences are minor but exist. Earlier restaurants, which functioned more as a community mess, offered specific community-based cuisine. Today, it is more cosmopolitan, for example, the Bombil is found in all Gomantak menus but not found in Goa. It is popular in North Konkan, Mumbai, Thane and Raigad," she sums up.

Time: 11 am to 4 pm,  7 pm to 11.30 pm 
At: Near Khar Railway Station, Khar (W). 
Call: 26007384

Aradhana Coastal Delight didn’t know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals

In the city
While most experts believe that it is difficult to find authentic Gomantak cuisine in Mumbai, here are some of their picks for a good Gomantak Thali

>> Highway Gomantak
Time: 11.30 am to 3.30 PM, 7 pm to 10.30 pm
At: 44/2179, Gandhi Nagar, Behind Maratha Store, Service Road, Bandra (E).
Call: 26409692

>> Gomantak Boarding House
Time: 11.30 am to 3.30 pm, 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm
At:  301, Miranda Chal, NC Kelkar Road. Dadar (W).
Call: 24305631

>> Saayba Hotel
Time: 11.30 am to 3.30 pm, 7.30 pm to 11.30 PM
At:  Shop No 1 & 2, Zarina CHS, S.V.Road, Bandra (W).
Call: 26436620

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