Finding the best Saraswat food in Goa

Redolent with flavours from kokum to khatkhate, here are four of the best options for a deep dive into Saraswat Brahmin food in Goa.

Looking for authentic Saraswat Brahmin food in Goa? Don’t ever add ‘authentic’ to your search. Food historians and experts will pucker their nose at the mere mention of that nine-letter word. They’ll tell you there is no one way to cook/serve Saraswat food. There are no textbook recipes for all dishes Saraswat. Each family has its own culinary traditions that borrow from ancient food heritage but are tweaked differently by families according to the availability of ingredients locally. 

Restaurant consultant Chef Ines Soares Lobo who has run various kitchens in India and Dubai says Goan Saraswat food is all about local produce — country hen, backwater/river water fish/crustaceans, lots of kokum, tamarind, lemon for the signature tanginess (vinegar is not used) and jaggery to add a touch of sweetness. She, too, spurns the ‘authentic’ embellishment. It is all about what the grandmother and her mother and her mother cooked in her kitchen.

Here’s are four ways to savour Saraswat Brahmin food in Goa. 

Kokum Curry

Vegetable platter at kokum curry.
Vegetable platter at Kokum Curry.

Sapna Girish Sardessai tucks several feathers in her straight hair — journalist with stints in advertising and publishing (her firm is called Printer’s Devil), author (her book Ishtann [Friendly Food] is already in its eighth edition), animal lover, child rights activist. But it is food that stokes the fire in her belly. Not just any food, but Goa’s ancient food heritage, especially Saraswat food which she has been chronicling on her Facebook page (@SapnaSardessai) that now stacks nearly 500 almost-forgotten recipes. Kokum Curry, the three-month-old, 50-cover restaurant in Candolim is an extension of that chronicle. Sapna has no formal culinary training, but she lends a hand in the restaurant’s kitchen. 

Sapna sardessai is an authority on saraswat food.
Sapna Sardessai is an authority on Saraswat food.

At Kokum Curry, the menu is long but don’t fret over the dish names that can twist your tongue: Bangddeachi Uddamethi (mackerel curry with distinct urad dal and fenugreek flavour); Saakhrichi/Godacchi Chapati (wholewheat flour layered with sugar/jaggery, ghee & coconut and caramelised on the griddle); Sungtacho/Tisreancho Pulav (moist prawn/clam pilaf cooked in thick coconut milk); Ansaachi Karamm (pineapple bits lightly cooked with ground coconut, jaggery, chilli and mustard seeds), to pick a few. There are six different kinds of Kokum curries and seven listed as desserts, of which Shirvolyo+Choon+Goad Ros (steamed rice noodles served with coconut-jaggery mix and sweetened coconut milk) is the house special.  

The exposed-brick-walled Kokum Curry has a fully stocked bar that also serves Kokum-based mocktails and there are live musical gigs on Sundays. 

Good to know: 1st Floor, above Delfinos Hymart, Candolim. Phone: +91-8378969233. Timings: 11.30 am to 4 pm, 7.30 pm to 11 pm. Open all days. 

Shubhra Shankhwalker

Shubhra shankhwalker runs a sararaswat cloud kitchen in goa.
Shubhra Shankhwalker runs a Sararaswat cloud kitchen in Goa.

It was an adamant mother who wanted to sell home-made mango pickles that drove a graphic designer to start a cloud kitchen. Shubhra Shankhwalker remembers that year when her mother made profits selling pickles (the brand is still called Aai’s). Next year, the mother got tired of the pickle business and pushed Shubhra to replicate the onerous task. That’s how a Saraswat food cloud kitchen was born. Aai’s menu is constantly changing as Shubhra walks the seasonal/sustainable path very religiously. She knows all about Saraswat food, so it’s best to let her decide the dishes to order.

Shubhra's saraswat menu is religiously seasonal and sustainable.
Shubhra’s Saraswat menu is religiously seasonal and sustainable.

For example, even if you have not heard of khatkhate, she’ll recommend this popular festival dish which is a stew cooked with 21 seasonal ingredients including drumsticks, pumpkin, raw banana, breadfruit, radish and hog plums. Or Vadyachi kismoor (a salad with sun-dried lentil and ash gourd dumplings), Tambdi bhaji (red amaranth with coconut), Mugachi gathi (sprouted green gram in coconut paste), Kelyache halwa (Moira bananas with a dose of ghee and cardamom) and other traditional dishes that have dominant flavours of sour bimbli, teppal (similar to Sichuan pepper) and Shankar chap hing (a variety of asafoetida). 

Good to know: Whatsapp +91-9890238080 for orders & queries. Instagram: @goafromhome 

Kokni Kanteen

The handwritten menu at kokni kanteen.
The handwritten menu at Kokni Kanteen.

“It is Kokni Kanteen, not Konkani Kanteen. Konkani includes several areas of the Konkan belt, but when you say Kokni, it is specifically Goan,” Girish Desai, restaurateur/chef, Kokni Kanteen, will educate you. He knows because he is stirring nostalgia with ladles full of tradition. No fusion here. No modern methods. The menu is printed on what looks like an old school slate. On the menu are Nirphanas, Xitt, Goenche Tondak, Bangdyachi Uradmethi, Tisreo, Bangada, Channyacho Ros, Bombil, Karatey Phodi… If you do not understand what’s listed, ask the servers, they’ll explain with a smile. Even the unusual ones. Like, pos, the dessert made of colostrum. The vegetarian (13 dishes in it) and fish curry thalis (12 dishes) are the most sought after at lunch. On Sundays, Bappa thali finds several takers. If you want thali, get there during lunch; it is not served for dinner. No leftovers. No additives. No preservatives. Girish who runs the restaurant along with his wife Shilpa Desai, picks fresh fish and sources seasonal ingredients from local farmers. While you wait to be seated, read an old newspaper or run through the timetable of old boats and buses.

Good to know: H 10/14, Dada Vaidya Road, Opposite Mahalaxmi Temple, Panaji. Phone: 0832-2421972; +91-9579275664. Timings: 12 noon to 3 pm, 7 pm to 12 midnight.

Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Food Trail (Rivona) with Soul Travelling

Delectable saraswat spread with soul travelling.
Delectable Saraswat spread with Soul Travelling.

Varun Hedge of Soul Travelling will take you on a heady journey through the secret world of the origins of Goa with petroglyphs, caves and carvings. Walk through Rishivan, the village known as the village of sages, visit the caves in Rivona, petroglyphs at Pansaimol, explore the civilisation on the banks of the river Kushavati. This trail is not about the petroglyphs and sages, though. It is for a hands-on experience of cooking traditional Saraswat Brahmin food at Kulaghar. Try your hands at Khatkhate, Moong Gaathi (semi-gravy dish made of Moong after soaking the dal for fermentation), Managane (a sweet made of dal and coconut milk), Mackerel sukhe (semi-gravy dish of fish), coconut kadi. A Gaud Saraswat Brahmin version of chicken Xacuti is included on request. 

Good to know: Start time: 8.00 am; Duration: 6-7 hours; Cost: Rs 2,500 per person; minimum no. of pax: 4. On request: Soul Travelling also does special Saraswat Food Trails in Rivona; minimum no. of pax: 10; cost: Rs 2,000 per person. Phone: +91-7666739521. Email: info@soultravelling.in. Website: www.soultravelling.in

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