Tired of hitting the same old famous food spots while travelling? The Big Forkers are here to help shift that perspective.
For two guys related by blood and general disposition to life yet disconnected by experiences, we spend countless hours eating, discussing and arguing about food as much as we can.
Shanky is half Malayalee, half Rajasthani/Marwari and I am half Kashmiri and half Rajasthani/Marwari and our perspectives stretch from one tip of the continent to the other. Arguing about the intricacy of a Benne Dosa at a Bangalore legend while locals look at us in utter confusion, paints the picture of our experiences.
With all our travels, we have just scratched the surface. In India, head a 100 miles in any direction and the food experience will vary based on the landscape and climate, not to mention historic immigration patterns, spices, trade links, rulers and religions.
Our second season was shot exclusively in Goa. There, we found traditional Hindu Goan cuisine, Catholic Goan cuisine, and different cuisines in the North and South of Goa.
The highlights for us were:
Luso Goan cuisine
Did you know that famous Goan snacks like croquettes, empadinhas and rissois trace their origins straight back to Portugal? In Luso cuisine, Indo-Portuguese Goan dishes lean heavily towards their Portuguese origins. Luso Goan cuisine stays truer to the Portuguese style of cooking with reduced indulgence in spices.
For ex: Feijoada (a Portuguese bean stew) in a Luso kitchen is far less spicy and tangy. The Bacalhau (salted cod) is another Portuguese import that is rare in restaurants in Goa, but can be found in some Luso Goan homes. Luso kitchens will generally not have as many traditional roasts as other Catholic Goan kitchens. Interestingly this form of cooking came into the traditional Catholic Goan food when the locals started working on British ships and kitchens as staff. This is an English or an Anglo Indian influence. We would definitely recommend trying Luso cuisine for a taste of the old world.
While being proud carnivores, we had a fascinating “all” vegetarian experience with a special Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) Diwali breakfast. It is one of the few Brahmin communities that are still non-vegetarians. A subset of the Hindu community (Brahmanical order), their roots can be traced from the banks of the Saraswat river. Once it dried up they started moving away and settled all across India, bringing their learned food habits to Goa.
The GSB’s are by the book, by the rules folk, and food is no exception. Their recipes dictate details such as: how to acquire ingredients, clean and cook each dish in a very specific manner. They prepare strictly vegetarian fare for certain Hindu festivals.
For Diwali, our friend Shubra Shankwalkar invited us to a feast of a kind we are not accustomed to. It was a glimpse into the variety of vegetarian GSB and Konkan food. There were seven different kinds of poha, from the traditional and widely available yellow variety, to poha cooked with bananas, with coconut milk (rossatle fov), poha with dahi (Yoghurt), and a sweet kalailleh fov with ginger, jaggery and grated coconut. The poha was all on the sweeter side.
Accompanying this was Ambadyachi Karam – a dried dish made with hog plum and grated coconut. We didn’t miss our meaty delights, which says a lot about why you must try this cuisine on your next visit.
We also got to experience the food of the Kunbi people. While they are technically not defined as a tribal people by the Government of India, they refer to themselves as a tribe. As per UNESCO findings Kunbi are one of the indigenous and original settlers of Goa. Kunbis have settled from mid to southern parts of Maharashtra, Goa and parts of Karnataka.
They consume a wide variety of indigenous tubers like Katkondga and ZarKondga. They cultivate crops that have low impact on the land and grow easily, like red and green amaranth, cluster beans etc. This makes their food very sustainable.
A lot of their food tends to have a bitter taste and as they say ‘All that’s bitter is mostly healthy’. They also do not waste anything. Their style of cooking and eating is low impact and maximum value.
A common dish throughout the Konkan coast, the Hay smoked mackerel is accompanied with a unleavened bread cooked with the mackerel’s organs to maximize the calorific value. One of the most unique dishes we tried during this season was the ashened (roast in ashes) and boiled tuber called KathGonda, which tasted to us like a mildly bitter purple potato.
We ate our way through many fish curries from the Konkan region. They tend to change according to religion, culture and even seasons. We were blown away with the range and variety of the types of fish used and subtle change in spices and aromatics. The Catholic home serves up a Samarachi Kodi prepared during the rainy season. With fishing boats docked during the rough seas, the families will use dried shrimp caught in summer and sun-dried to preserve it.
A big identifier of a kitchen are the souring agents used across the region. The Portuguese used vinegar and salt, to preserve proteins on long journeys as do the Catholic kitchens to this day. The Hindu kitchens however, prefer raw mango, tamarind pulp or kokum. In GSB cuisine, they use all three in some dishes. The Pernem style fish curry is from a small micro region in North goa bordering Maharashtra, uses more coriander and the heat is pronounced. A telling spice is the Tefla, a cousin of the Sichuan peppercorn which has a lemony twang to it. The addition of tefla cuts against the oiliness and smell of the fish and is commonly used with oily fish like sardine or mackerel.