The 3 Cs on a menu
Confluence, culture, and cuisine come together in a Portuguese-Goan menu, put together by two chefs in search of culinary stories
Published in 2007, Um Estranho em Goa, or A Stranger in Goa, by author José Eduardo Agualusa combines travel literature with mystery through characters living in the coastal state with links to other countries, like Portugal and Brazil. Of them, one persona is based on José Vasco Silveira, who migrated to the beauteous state years ago from Angola. Silveira happens to be the chef-owner of the cherished Panjim-based diner called Horseshoe. "He is very particular," 53-year-old chef Andre Magalhaes tells us, gesticulating with an almost hypnotic grace. His lips move slightly, but they convey a lot. Magalhaes discovered Silveira 15 years ago while visiting Goa. "I was also born in Angola, so I knew Agualusa, and when I told him I was going to Goa, he suggested I read his book," he recalls.
Last weekend, he managed to revisit his old friend, thanks to a collaborative project with BKC-based O Pedro that will culminate in a mouth-watering meal over the weekend. In essence, it is a culinary homage to the connect between Portugal and Goa.
Magalhaes and Shahzad at the Mapusa market in Goa
In 2016, before launching the restaurant in Mumbai, chef Husain Shahzad had embarked on a journey though the European country in search of unexplored flavours. It was then that he was acquainted with Magalhaes, a seasoned chef and food writer who owns the Lisbon-based diner, Taberna da Rua das Flores. Ask him how he dons so many hats (Magalhaes has also dabbled in film, and has worked as a sailor and polyglot tourist guide during his earlier years), and he'll tell you with heartening humility, "I've always been like that."
A month ago, Shahzad approached Magalhaes, who says, he has been "following the growth of the restaurant from a distance." As someone who instinctively looks at food in conjunction with history and culture, getting on board with this part-collaborative, part-adventurous project came naturally to him. Fast forward to last weekend, where he and Shahzad are gliding through Goa, sampling Portuguese food in the south for lunch, ending the day at the countryside home of a local cook in the north and learning the ropes at a fenny distillery, which is a drink synonymous with Goa. What is interesting here, though, is the fact that cashews, from which fenny is made, was one of the first ingredients to be imported to India by the Portuguese.
But for Magalhaes, neither India nor Goa is unfamiliar. So, on what is his fourth trip to the state, what more could he have discovered? "We're living in the times of true culinary globalisation and you can see that in Goan cuisine today. In my previous trips, I had noticed that because of tourism, Goan restaurants were losing their identity by serving dishes that were suited to tourist customers. But what is interesting about Goan food — which I feel is characteristic of Indian cuisine in general — is that it is ever-changing because there is so much interaction between the different regions. Within the state, too, there are sub-cuisines, and while there is an intermingling between them, they are also open to outside influence. So, what I noticed primarily is an evolution," he says, explaining how the F&B industry in Goa is re-imagining itself.
Sweet potato croquettes
Add Magalhaes' knowledge of authentic Portuguese food and Shahzad's curiosity around culinary techniques to these explorations, and what you have is thoughtfully executed and robust dishes, be it the sweet potato croquettes (Rs 450), which are melt-in-your-mouth and served with a lively fermented and flavourful red chilli sauce. Or, the chorizo flambé (Rs 850), traditional Portuguese sausage served smoking hot and brimming with a hearty brininess, and asparagus tempura (Rs 650), with a tender centre and crunchy coating, sprinkled gently with parmesan. There's also serica (Rs 495), an indulgent custard-like baked dessert embellished with a rich strawberry compote and donned generously with fresh cinnamon. Interestingly, this is a dish that travelled back to Portugal along with the Viceroy of Goa, an anecdote that is antithetical to the one-dimensional understanding of the overlap between these two cuisines. There's a lot they took back from here as well. But that's a story for another day.
AT O Pedro, Jet Airways - Godrej, BKC.
ON November 16 and 17, 12 pm to 3.30 pm; 7 pm to 11.30 pm (takeover; the menu will be available till November 30)
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