SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Goa is a place where talent and life is celebrated and where people celebrate food as much as any other aspect. And celebrating food, is the ninth edition of the Semana da Cultura Indo Portuguesa (Goa) which commenced in September and will conclude on December 1 with the ‘Noite de Gastronomia e Musica 2017’ at Bay 15, Dona Paula. ‘Noite de Gastronomia e Musica’ is an evening of Indo Portuguese cuisine and music which will give Goans a treat of Portuguese food and music.
Goan chefs Rahul Gomes Pereira and Kapil Muchandi with the help of Margarida Tavora of Fernando’s Nostalgia have crafted a traditional Portuguese, Indian and fusion cuisine to offer the people of Goa an extraordinary culinary experience. The specially created menu is designed to take guests through a culinary journey into the historical past of India and Portugal. The menu includes Pasteis de bacalhau, ameijoas a bulhao pato and chourico Berliners and the delicious pasties de nata. A salad bar with a selection of fresh salads and unlimited drinks await guests.
Born and brought up in Goa, 26-year-old chef Rahul completed his studies in Mumbai. Popularly known as Chef Picu he has had a series of exciting stints in some of the finest international kitchens. Currently Chef Rahul is the executive chef of Delhi based award-winning restaurant À Ta Maison and the soon-to-be launched Indian ‘fun-dining’ restaurant Jamun in Goa. Chef Rahul has worked and headed the kitchens of three of The Oberoi Group’s flagship properties. Chef Rahul believes that there is nothing as specialisation when it comes to food: “I started with contemporary European food, from there I moved into healthy Asian street food and now I am into making regional Indian foods. Specialisation in food is passé. You just have to understand ingredients, flavour profiles and work with it.” Chef Kapil started with western cuisine and switched to Goan food as he wanted to connect to his land.
Rahul reveals that no other Indian food could be successfully paired with Portuguese ingredients. Owing to the heavy Portuguese influence in Goa many ingredients such as vinegar and spices were used by Goans in their food through the ages. “Vinegar is only used in Goa and few parts of southern India. Since Goa is located along the coast, seafood is also found in abundance. Indo Portuguese food is what we are eating and it’s not the same in Portugal,” says Rahul. Kapil adds that Indo Portuguese food is at the verge of extinction. “This is an attempt to keep the spirit of the Portuguese food alive and we would love to continue it,” says Kapil.
Chefs like to experiment with food and it is no different in the case of Rahul and Kapil. “Throughout our career we have been experimenting with food. As a chef you will not come up with new things if you don’t experiment but there are a few things that cannot be changed. My latest experimental dish is ‘flaming cafreal’ – chicken roulade rolled with cafreal masala and presented in a contemporary way,” says Kapil. Rahul opines that as a chef he prefers a simple and neat dish. “It is important to understand the technicality behind cooking, science of cooking and how you treat ingredients,” says Rahul.
Fusion cuisine combines elements of different culinary traditions; however, Kapil opines that in the name of fusion food many have made food inedible. “There is a thin line between fusion and confusion and hence it is important to pay attention to it,” says Kapil.
Each chef has a specific ingredient that he likes working with, speaking about the same, Rahul says: “I love kokum. It is one of the best ingredients with the right balance of acidity and flavour. There are other souring agent such as tamarind and vinegar but kokum has a right balance between colour and flavour. It is versatile ingredient and can be used in any dish.” While Kapil feels that the Goan toddy vinegar has the ability to enhance insipid food, and thus loves working with it. “I prefer the Goan toddy vinegar that is something unique and found abundantly in Goa. It makes a huge difference in the food and gives you that taste that you desire,” says Kapil.
It is often said that Goan culture and food is interlinked and to an extent it is true. “Goans are extremely social and believe in food and drinks. It’s a great culture and lots to do with warmth and building relationship over food and friends,” says Rahul. Kapil adds that there is a major difference in the tastes of Goans versus the tourists: “Goans are more bent towards only Goan food, unlike tourists who like experimenting with different cuisines. This could be possible as Goans themselves are hardly exposed to a variety of dishes in Goa.”