Wednesday, April 29, 2015

where to eat in Goa: Goa on my plate

Goa is such a fascinating destination in terms of food. Road side food stalls selling ros omelette and chicken cutlets, sea side shacks which open only during tourist season and though may sell the same fare are still an intrinsic goan experience, then come the stand alone restaurants serving everything from local to global cuisine, and the eateries within the plush holiday resorts which serve and cater to the globe trotting upwardly mobile.
I know I may not have done an extensive food trail of goa per se , but that’s what happens when one actually lives in a holiday destination, it doesn’t seem like a holiday anymore.
Here is an exhaustive list of restaurants I have reviewed over the past year in Goa. Since the column is not exactly search engine optimised , I have neatly tabulated for you the restaurants which take you to the review.
If you do try these restaurants I would be happy to hear your own views and recommendations and experiences.
Eat well and live long!!!

Goan food
Mums kitchen
Woods inn  woods inn, porvorim
Kismur   Kismur, taleigaon
Suwadik suwadik
fishermans wharf 

Go with the flow go with the flow , baga
Black sheep bistro
kudos kudos

Thai and wok
Mainland china

Barbeque nation barbeque nation, panjim

Burger factory burger factory , anjuna
Route 66

CafĂ© Tehran cafe tehran , candolim
Rock fish rock fish , baga
tib chi tib chi

Even as I have been busy with my column, my blog readers have been super sweet and patient, while I blog occasionally now. as a special treat here is a fairly large number of eateries in Goa. also follow me on instagram @kuhelib to catch up on all the behind the scene pictures during the food reviews as well.
would love to interract on my facebook group goa on my plate, for everything Goan and edible.

have a special surprise blog coming up next week , so stay tuned. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

goa on my plate turns one : a food writer retrospects

It’s been a year since I made the transition from being a food blogger to being a food critic with my very own column in a leading local newspaper, and I am feeling particularly nostalgic today.
40 articles in a year! Whew I didn’t know I had it in me, and I am absolutely and completely indebted to my editor Anuradha Das who had such tremendous faith in me.
To be honest it all began with foodietrails right here, and it makes sense that I try and makes sense of all that I learnt this past year , right here.  So here is me looking back at the year that was, and my one year old restaurant review column “goa on my plate” published in the Navhind times.

1.       Don’t let personal choices get in the way of you tasting EVERYTHING.: Now I am a Bengali, who lived most of her growing up years in delhi and Punjab, and then settled down in Pune, studied in places like Mumbai, Madurai and Goa. I love my alu paratha , pongal and sambar, ilish maach and vada pav with equal veracity.I do believe that the intact prawn heads add depth of flavour to a curry like nothing can, and the gooey ‘brain ‘ of the prawn melts right into the curry, just the way the marrow in a shank of meat does in mutton curries, but Goan prawn curry does not have prawn heads, unlike the Bengali version. Knowing the difference helps. Also the fact that you have all the proteins and have no major food allergies. ( this is different from a blog writer, you could be a vegan and have a vegan food blog, but as a restaurant reviewer you must look beyond the organic almond milk)

2.       Professionalism: In this one year I wrote 40 columns. That’s more than the number of blogs that I wrote in 2 years. Bad day at work, or you are just feeling bleh, are not reasons enough to not turn in your column. There was just one time when I went by 3 weeks without an article because of health reasons, and that too because my editor is a sweetheart.

3.       Read: I read every other newspapaer and weekly and travel magazine which had covered the same places to see what they had liked, how they had interpreted the menu, and did they dislike the sorbet as much as I did. Also about the cuisine you are planning to review. Turkish, Brazilian, Irani, African, , these were some of the foods I needed to exhaustively research on before reviewing the places which served them. I learnt that the Tahdig or the crispy rice at the bottom of the Persian rice cakes is a speciality and the rice was not “overcooked till the rice at the bottom got burnt”, it’s meant to be crisp and relished that way too.  (most of the travel food bloggers must already be doing that, I remember the hectic Kashmiri cuisine research prior to our Kashmir trip)
my favourite food writing book

4.       Don’t be a food snob: I love to write evocatively about the dishes I eat, that’s the only way I can make my readers hear the sizzles, see the butter glaze over the roast, and feel the charcoal smoky flavours of a roasted leg of lamb. But words like”marvellously piquant and tantalisingly sweet” are for my column. When eating out with friends and family I restrict my vocab to “amazing” “great” and “delicious”.no one likes to hang out with a food snob.

5.       Restaurant owners and chefs are people too: Some days are off days. Its best to give any place a second chance.

6.       Find your voice:Jamie oliver with his “these loverlies are absolutely delish” and Nigella Lawson with her “voluptuous sensuality” in terms of the words she chooses add so much character to their food. I as a newbie food writer am still finding my voice. It’s interesting to try new styles of writing every few articles, or change it to suit a particular restaurant. I am experimenting, still.

7.       Know your audience: when I started to write I knew that unlike a blog where my audience was as varied as from Poland to New Zealand, my readers were going to be locals. They could be the homemaker who reads my column while on her morning break with a cup of tea, or school going kid who likes food, or the really hard core foodie who had been to the self same restaurants and had an opinion. I knew too that with a name like “kuheli Bhattacharya” I may not be accepted as a”local” and thus after my first few articles, I chose to add my husbands last name as well, the “rane” helps me win over some of the people who come up to me and say “but you are not from Goa, no?” (unlike a blog where people seek you out, here you are wedged right in the middle of the local news whether it s a charity event, or the weather.)

8.       Don’t get personal: Ok, so sometimes I hate the restauteur, or the PR team gets on my nerves, but I don’t let that get in the way of reporting on the food. I don’t need them to be my friends, or the other way round. Having said that I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most fascinating and genuine people from the food industry.

9.       Hate the rating system:I haqve system of rating from 1 to 5. It’s what catches a readers eye. But here’s the deal, it just doesn’t feel right to give any one a less than 2 rating and neither do I want to go over a 4.5. with such varied eateries like beach shacks, to upmarket chef owned restaurants, to restaurants in 5 star hotel properties, a point system does not do the food and the people who serve it justice. I urge my readers to read the subtext rather than just the scoreboard.

10.   Be true to your readers: over a decede ago, who am I kidding it’s more like 2 decades ago, I used to read a food column in a pune newspaper, written by an S Mukherjee. I used to love his columns so much that I had once written to him, asking him how I could write like him. Now everytime I write I think of my readers and how in those 700 to 900 words I can make their day happier. sure it’s only a food review column, but there is magic in the written word, whether in a blog, a diary, or in  news print.

My local news column has given me much, but I miss the connectivity of a blog, a chance to interact with other foodies who have tried the same places or have a difference of opinion about how the snapper should have been cooked.
Thus , the face book discussion page : goa on my plate an open forum for all to discuss food in Goa.
My instagram kuhelib with the hash tag #goaonmyplate where all the behind scene pics of the food reviews and real time pics, as well as the news clippings itself.
And twitter which I am still trying to figure out : kuheli1 .

ps: i will post an exhaustive restaurant review selection from the column soon enough, as a ready reckoner for eating out in Goa. :) stay tuned guys, and thanks for the love and support.

Monday, April 20, 2015

cashew trail - the Goan journey of a fruit

Cashews are a conversation starter, after all they are shaped like the ‘inverted comma’ quotation symbols, aren’t they?

This versatile fruit/nut is a favourite across the country , whether it is roasted on pulavs, or ground into pastes for curries as varied as the Punjabi butter chicken or the hyderabadi qurmas, even the tamilian pongal is studded with toasted cashew nuts. Sweet dishes like kaju katli barfi and even payassam cannot do without this mildly sweet and creamy nut.

A master of disguises playing both sweet and savoury roles with elan, the nut itself is a scene stealer even without the garb of disguise. Diwali celebrations warrant the mandatory visit to friends and relatives homes, and amongst a wide variety of delicious home made karanji and chakli and aloo tikki and chana chaats, one woman sheepishly admitted that she had had no time to prepare home made delicacies that year. She conjured up an assortment of salted, peppered and spiced cashew nuts instead, needless to say they were gone within a blink of an eye. Cashews are a perfect celebration treat.
Goa shares an even more intimate relationship with cashews. From late march to mid April, is the cashew harvest season, a time when the cashew apples are harvested and consumed. These delicate fruits don’t take well to travel and thus is not available at your local fruit market, for a taste of these flame hued fruits you must travel to the sunny state of Goa. This is also the time when alcoholic drinks like the Urak and it’s triple distilled version ‘feni’ are made. Cashew nuts and their flavoured versions are the favourite touristy souvenir all through the year, but at this particular time all the avatars of the fruit take centre stage_ the extremely photogenic cashew apple, the equally enticing Urak, and the robust Feni.

Park Hyatt Goa, recently celebrated the “cashew trail” for its fourth consecutive year. Started in 2012 in association with Madame rosa distillery, the event traces the journey of the cashew fruit. This year there was an extensive event packed line up which behgan from the 10th of April all the way to 19th april, and culminating in a cashew trail brunch.

The brunch, held at the resort property on south Goa was attended by local food connoiseurs, to national and international travel and food enthusiasts.
Familiar dishes had got the cashew twist, whether it was the Feni flambed prawns, or the Urak marinated chicken wrapped ina banana leaf, Rawa and cashew encrusted king fish and even broccoli and zucchini were wok tossed with cashew.

Bartenders worked their magic with Feni and Urak inspired cocktails, and spirits were high as people enjoyed a barbeque style brunch under the swaying palm and coconut trees. A live band played popular Goan Konkani songs along with English classics, while children were kept entertained with painted tattoos, sack races, and cashew stomping.
A sprightly and well attended couples cooking competition was underway as well, where dishes inspired by the cashew took centrestage. With winners walking away with vacation vouchers to Hyatt properties across the country.

The highlight of the event though was the auctioning of 45 litres of Feni, known as the “lambranza”. Lambranza incidentally meant rememberance, whether it was in memory of the late artist Mario Miranda who had done the artwork for the Feni or in rememberance of this sunkissed golden afternoon I couldn’t tell, but it was a thouroghly enjoyable experience to see the bidding of the Feni. What started out at a humble 5000 rupees had crossed the 100000 mark! After which I lost count. A similar auction is held every year and the money is given to a charitable organisation making Cashew for a good cause.

So, the next time you are contemplating a holiday with a culinary twist, or even a peek in to the countries rich and varied culinary heritage, make a dtae with the cashew and you will be surprised at all that your favourite dry fruit can do.

The Park Hyatt Goa had a veritable smorgasbord of events to choose from this year, such as Feni tasting masterclasses, a cashew cycling trail to and froim the cashew platations, an excursion to the cashew factory to experience first hand the making of Urak and the distilling of feni, cooking workshops for children and cocktail making and competions by Shatbi Basu. Each year they get bigger and grander with the cashew celebrations, so enquire about it on your next trip to Goa, and you wont be disappointed.