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A hearty Goan Saraswat meal

The Saraswat community in Goa is known for their lifestyle and food. Yet, finding this authentic food in any restaurant or resort is ‘mission-impossible’. But, Park Hyatt Resort and Spa, Cansaulim has been thoughtful and has gone the extra mile to offer the Saraswat Goan Food Thali Festival that is on till May 27 at Casa Sarita

SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ

Saraswat Goan Food Thali Festival at Park Hyatt Resort and Spa, Cansaulim is offering foodies vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis for dinner only. Although Goa is known for its fish, no food lover will regret trying the vegetarian thali. While most preparations are similar in both the types of thalis, even if the key ingredient is changed, the taste is barely different. A vegetarian can thus relish the same flavours that a non-vegetarian plunges in.

I chose the non-vegetarian thali. Chef’s Lynton Morais and Tanuja Kerkar served us on the day of our visit. Dishes like Phanne Phovu, Cauliflower Tondak, Dal Varan, Sol Kadi and the sweet dish Mangane were there in both thalis. I started with the lighter preparation of Phanne Phovu, commonly known as kanda poha. The mustard-tempered tadka with curry leaves made this dish very Goan! No sooner did I taste it, it gave me a feeling of being at home. This customary breakfast dish gave me a new perspective of it being a great dish for ending evening hunger pangs too.

There was also freshly baked Goan Unde (bread) that I ate with the yellow Cauliflower curry. The coconut milk flavour of curry that lent it a semi sweet flavour isn’t just the taste I enjoyed but it lingered on my mind through the evening. Dal Varan was also prepared using coconut milk, however the tempered lentils required more spices, hence I could feel the punch of chilli and garlic in it. Garnished with fresh green coriander leaves it looked appetising. One thing I really loved about this dish is its consistency that wasn’t too thick or too watery.

A thali in Goa like other parts of the country is incomplete without rice. And here the chefs rightly thought of introducing guests to brown rice during the ongoing festival. Non-vegetarians can enjoy an extra dish of Sungta Ambat, a famous hot and sour curry that complements steamed rice very well. The prawns enhance the flavour and I couldn’t resist licking my spoon clean after each morsel.

Here you can also relish the Tarkareche Danger/ Chonakache Dangar and mixed vegetable/ fish cutlets. The signature dish of vegetarian thali was Khatkhatem, a popular mixed vegetable curry found in the houses of Goan Saraswats or famous during Ganesh Chaturthi. Vegetables here are cooked with roasted coconut. The chefs tweaked the recipe adding regular Indian spices to it like coriander seeds and peppercorns. It was the first time I tasted the peppery zest on mixed vegetables. The Kombdeachi Rassa or chicken rassa was true to its flavour with the thick coconut gravy.

Time and again I would find myself having onion, pickle and papad, the side dishes on the thali. Chef Lynton mentioned that Goans cannot gulp down the rice until they have crunchy papad and sour pickle on their plate. Being a true Goan I mixed the coconut sol kadi with the rice and marked an end to the hearty meal.

That only means that it was time for something sweet. The popular mangane was tempting though it’s a staple in Goan Saraswat homes. I could smell the palm jaggery while I was blown off with the bountiful topping of cashew nuts and pistas. Gram dal and sabudana (tapioca pearls) are used to prepare this Goan dish. Chef Tanuja explained, “We used palm jaggery in this dish because it is a speciality of Goa.”

You surely don’t want to miss out on this golden opportunity of relishing Saraswat cuisine while you learn more about Goa and the food culture here.

(Saraswat Goan Food Thali Festival will be on till May 27 at Casa Sarita, Park Hyatt Resort and Spa, Cansaulim)

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