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Taking foodies back in time

If you have a fondness for the original and authentic, and wish to eat the wholesome, flavoured food our parents and grandparents ate,
Taj Vivanta – Panaji has the perfect gateway to the yesteryears
Janice Rodrigues|NT BUZZ
Fish and chips, stroganoff, potato chops or even pineapple upside down cake are some things that every foodie is familiar with. But did you know that these dishes were first served in the times just after everything started settling down post World War II? That once the economy was back on track and the political scenario was stabilised the chefs in the kitchen were at peace and decided to experiment and create masterpieces that would go down in the annals of history? Yes, the era of post World War II was one of the most creative, particularly of the late fifties and sixties. And taking us back to that era of creative geniuses is Taj Vivanta – Panaji with the festival, ‘Back to 60’s’.
“We had noticed a lot of older crowds coming into the restaurants, and some of them would taste the food and reminisce about their younger days, so we thought why not have a festival that went back to the basics and take our clientele back in time too,” says chef Sahil Desai. After consulting several research books, internet surfing and referencing his old college journals, after all when it comes to cooking you have to go back to your roots, the chef has ensured that the food is authentic. And being asked to review the food that had so much thought put into it, making you want to go back in time, was something hard to resist.
As we were asked to sit down there came the first course of the truly English meal, the soup – the cream of pea soup. Gruel of pureed peas and cream, the soup was rich in taste and consistency, reminiscent of something your grandmother would make in her kitchen. Then came the starter of the prawn cocktail. Chef Sahil tells us that initially the prawn cocktail was not like the ones served now, with a thick mayonnaise based dip. When the chefs in the sixties served their prawn cocktail, they meant it to be like a slightly creamier version of a Bloody Mary. “Once you’ve dipped the prawns and had them all, the remaining dip was intended to be drunk.” The dip/drink was really delicious and the chef just showed how, by adding just a little radish juice to the tomato, gherkin mixture you can create something delectable. After the prawns were eaten, and the remainder of the ‘drink’ downed, came the main course.
Chicken a la King, beef stroganoff, Railway mutton curry, potato cutlets, fish and chips, all reminiscent of a truly English meal. The Chicken a la King, in its creamy smooth white gravy with mushroom and chicken and served within a circle of flavourful pulao, was the inarguably the best on the platter. The stroganoff unlike the peppery gravy that is served today; was a rather mellow flavoured, creamy textured one, with the succulent pieces of meat cooked to perfection. The Railway mutton curry was steeped in Indian spices, and evoked a regal kind of aura of the British India. “The mutton curry was served only to the Englishmen and those who could afford to travel by the first class compartment in the Indian Railways, hence the name,” said Sahil, giving little tidbits of information.
Fish and chips that is so much of a rave now, had its humble origins in the post war years and the fish was fried with a batter of plain flour and not crumb or cornflake coated. This one was the originals served with tarter sauce and balsamic vinegar. The massive potato culets served with a side of fries, and boiled vegetables were similar to the potato chops that we make at home but only larger and tastier.
After all this there was still space for dessert and no one can say no to dessert. When the plates came served with a sticky toffee pudding and the pineapple upside down cake, it felt like we were a part of a tea party right out of a Jane Austen book, though her books were much older, these desserts were still a rage in the 1960s. The pudding was really delectable and the cake was just the right amount of tangy, they were both a hearty delight.
So if you are an old soul and want to savour the times gone by, head to Vivanta by Taj – Panaji and go on a culinary journey back in time. To escort you there, the hotel has an added bonus of entertainers who will sing retro music.

(‘Back to 60’s’ festival will be on till January 29 at Vivanta By Taj – Panaji.)

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