Sunday, January 31, 2016

A bit of Dubai in Goa,Kasbaa Porvorim Goa

It’s amazing how almost everyone in Goa knows atleast one relative, friend or neighbour who works/lives in the middle east. With so many direct flights to Dubai and Kuwait, it was only a matter of time before the Arabian food scene landed in Amche Goa. Kasbaa is situated on the CHOGM road, where once was housed another popular eatery.

Ambience: the glass fronted façade is still the same as before. They have a shawarma stall outside the premises allowing for take aways without having to enter the main restaurant. They even have a ‘smoking section’ they hope to convert into a sheesha/ hookah bar, a concept yet to make it’s entry to Goa. Large glitzy chandeliers and framed pictures showcasing Dubai and the middle east make up the décor. They have placemats with crossword puxzzles and some such, which do not blend with the theme but are child friendly.
Food: when we went to Kasbaa these guys were still trying to phase out their initial stance as a multi cuisine eatery. Their main emphasis still lies on the Arabic cuisine and that is what we tried. A fairly good mezze platter with falafel (deep fried, balanced spices) , pita bread, hummus (good do with more olive oil), lamb hummus. They have kebab skewers and a lot of wraps. Shawarmas make up a large part of their itiniery and they have a fairly large number of vegetarian, and meat preparations for the same.

What you must however try here is tha Mandi and the kapsa, the two varieties of rice preparations which the hosts vouch for are prepared the traditional way. Mandi is a Yemeni dish quite popular with the Dubai food scene. It is a rice and meat (chicken or lamb) preparation, the important difference is that the meat is cooked ina tandoor, mostly in a underground, hole in the ground kinds that you see on national geography.Thus the meat and and the rice have a smoky flavour. The meat is allowed to sit on the rice allowing for the flavours to seep in. here in Kasbaa, I could not dtect the smokiness but the rice was delicately spiced, and the chicken succulent enough to fall of the bone. The word Mandi comes from the Arabic word meaning ‘Dew’ and reflects the dewy moist texture of the meat.

The kabsa is more akin to our Biryani with long grained rice, a large amount of spices like the saffron , cinnamon and cardamom, bay leaves and black pepper.there are three ways of cooking the meat for Kabsa : the Mnadi as descroibed above, the mathbi (grilling on flat stones)madghut (cooking in a pressure cooker). It was served with a tomato sauce called daqqus which is a fiery hot chilli and tomato sauce, and quite addictive aswell.

The desserts in this desert inspired restaurant are another favourite with customers. A tall glass of falooda with the every assortment of dry fruits and nuts piled high over icecream and vermicelli is a great choice. So is the kasbaa delight an indigenious invention of the chefs. Chocolate icecream, with the fruits and nuts, pomegranates, and a toffe caramelised bit of sticky chocolate. What I missed in the desserts were dry dates, synonymous with the desert lands of the middle east.

Nevertheless it is heartening to note that we have a few niche eateries catering to a different kind of cuisine, and bringing the world to Goa, on a plate.

Taste of Arabian nights :cafe tehran, Candolim Goa

One of the best things about living in a popular holiday destination is the opportunity to meet people from interesting places and backgrounds. Many who journey through Goa , have lost their hearts to this place and found themselves a new home. One such couple is the Irani duo Anita and Sam, who now run a bed and breakfast called the Café Tehran in Candolim and they are open for lunch and dinner for guests as well.
 Ambience: Anita and Sam khosroshahi , had originally thought of opening an Indian restaurant in Iran, lucky for us then , that they decided to open an Iranian place in India instead.Thus, Café Tehran. The seating is very much like sitting in the backyard of a house, open air, and under the trees. The house itself is the lodging where they have four rooms to let. Done up in complimentary colours and paintings of elfin women , the interiors are eclectic and reminiscent of Persian mystique.  
Food: It is said that every Persian dish is a pretext to break in to verse .Persia is well known for it’s gastronomy and poetry. The names of the dishes itself had a lyrical quality as Anita Tolalo walked us though the menu. We began with Doogh, a savoury yogurt based drink with dried mint and mohammedi flower, it is not unlike the gujarati chaas.
The omnipresent Hummus, and another dip known as Kashke Bademjan made from roasted eggplants hint towards the Ottoman influences in the Persian cuisine. Aubergines infact are known as the “potato of Iran” due to its popularity in their cuisine.
The kebabs ARE the highlight of café Tehran  and are a carnivores dream come true. Vegetarians , I am sure they have options for you as well, but we enjoyed our meat fest too much to enquire about the veg options. Succulent chenjeh kebabs, which were charcoal grilled chunks of lamb, were followed by shishleek  what tasted a lot like the Indian Seekh kebabs but with saffron and a middle eastern spice mix. The Joojeh kebabs were moist , tender pieces of chicken in a tangy tomato dressing. The kebab roli, which are roullades of chicken with crunchy carrrots and crisp cucumbers in the center give a sense of healthy balance.
 Delightfully different and yet comfortingly familiar , these kebabs reminded of the northern frontier cuisine so very loved and appreciated in India, we call it all ‘mughlai’, but there are finer nuances to each of the regions in the middle east, including Iran.
Accompaniments or mokhalafat are essential to every Iranian meal, and it includes a plate of fresh herbs known as sabzi khordan. The sabzi khordan on our table were plates full of fresh coriander, cilantro, basil, mint sprigs, and radish.mouthfuls of fresh greens between morselfuls of meat is the Iranian way to a balanced meal of meat and veggies.
Next came the rice dishes. Tahchin or rice cakes, are essentially steamed rice cooked with yogurt and chicken or meat, the golden brown rice at the bottom of the pan turns crisp and when the pan is served upside down, the crusted crisp rice from the bottom of the pan ‘tahdig’ holds the rice together in the form of a cake. The tahdig not only looks visually appealing but adds texture to the savoury pulao type dish.
The zereshk polo was a sweeter rice dish with carrots,pomegranates and dry fruits. Both the Tahchin and the polo reminded me of the Indian pulao and biryanis. Just when I was craving for some ‘raita’ to go with my ‘biryani’, along came the mast-o’khiar which is a yogurt and cucumber dip with salt,sugar and dry mint and tasted not surprisingly just like the familiar raita.
Dessert of sholezard an overcooked rice and sweet milk ‘payassam ‘ kind of dish. Yakh dar behesht  which loosely translates to ice in paradise is a delicately flavoured cold pudding of milk, sugar and starch along with spices. They were cold and smooth and literally skated along the tongue to their most satisfying end.
Irani cuisine has been celebrated across India, whether in the form of the renowned chelo kebabs of the iconic Peter pan on Parkstreet, Kolkatta, or the Irani chai in the bylanes near Charminar, or the keema pao breakfasts at the Irani cafes in Mumbai. Falooda and sheeshas have been ambassadors of the middle east for long, and for a taste of the Arabian nights, we now have Café Tehran in Candolim.

Candolim can be tricky to find stand alone Bed and Breakfasts’s since there are so many this time of the year, but follow the road behind Ducle hospital, and along Sonesta Inn to get here.