By Mini Ribeiro
Monsoons spell magic for many of us. One can sit endlessly by the window and gaze at the rains. The heavy downpours are the perfect setting for good food, especially, hot and spicy tid-bits. Cups of tea can also be gulped all day. Known for its heavy rains in the monsoons, Goa is the idyllic place to enjoy the rains and eat steaming hot food.
I am not a fussy eater otherwise, but careful about avoiding street side food during the rains. Greens too must be consumed carefully. I ensure I wash them in salt water repeatedly. And of course fish is a complete no-no, much as I miss it. Food poisoning from E- coli, salmonella or other contaminants is commonplace so I don’t take chances. Fried food is something I normally stay away from, but it is irresistible during this season. How can one not munch on bhajiyas or pakoras along with endless cups of tea when it is pouring? I usually give in to my urge. And then the weather does not seem gloomy at all.
Chef Mark Hagen, Executive Chef, Grand Hyatt Goa feels “Food during Monsoon should be more about comfort. Something, that people would like to eat while sitting and watching TV or playing indoor board games. As the rains are here to stay for a while, the mood for hot steamy bites is understandable.”
I echo this sentiment wholeheartedly. Bhutta with lots of lime squeezed on it and rock salt. Love it, especially in Lonavala. Even the Dome, at The Intercontinental, Marine Drive, Mumbai serves this, as part of their monsoon menu. The monsoon mania catches on. People are in the mood to indulge as there is nothing better to do, so hotels comply. To make this monsoon season extra special, the Bay View Lounge and Confeitaria at Grand Hyatt Goa is serving an irresistible assortment of vegetarian and non-vegetarian pakoras, and an array of teas. The health-conscious can opt for a nice cup of ginger, lemon-infused or minty green tea instead.
Even soups are a great hit during monsoons. In fact a bowl of soup is the perfect dish for a rainy day. My mother-in-law makes a delicious mutton broth. It is my comfort food. Even khichdi or khichuri is something I have grown up on during the rains. It is filling as well as delicious. One can add vegetables to it or simply have the basic dal-rice version tempered with jeera and fried onions. Many of us love it I’m sure.
“Local sea catch of fish is banned during monsoons. It is unsafe to go fishing and during monsoons, it is breeding season for sea fish; hence, fresh catch is mainly done in small rivers, also commonly known as sweet water fish. In Goa, jackfruit is in abundance in monsoons, so traditionally every house during this season must have “Fanass Shaak”, Raw Jack Fruit vegetable,” reveals Sahil Desai, Executive Chef, Vivanta by Taj – Panaji, Goa.
It also helps to use certain types of spices and foods during this season. Those can actually help prevent or combat monsoon ailments. Get creative with corn, chickpeas, oats and gram flour. These help dry up the inside of the body and prevent infections. Chef Hagen adds, “Use garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric, asafoetida, jeera and coriander while cooking as this enhances digestive power and improves immunity during monsoons. Eat bitter vegetables like neem, methi, haldi and karela to prevent infection.”
So when the sky is overcast over the next few days, do not despair. Sip cups of tea, steamy pakoras and chourico pav if you like. However clichéd they may be, monsoons are incomplete without these. Enjoy.