Peruvian Plates in Goa
The palm-tree-lined roads of the coastal state offer an attractive drive-through on my way to my appointed destination for my weekend in Goa. The highlight of this sojourn is a tryst with the Peruvian flavours of ceviche, a culinary offering that is trending hot right now, even though this is a preparation served cold and raw. The vehicle glides into the expansive property of the Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, overlooking the waterfront.
While exploring the hotel, with its multilayered pool, verdant landscape and relaxing spa, I am particularly looking forward to the evening hours to experience my initiation into ceviche. The sun sets and I — along with a few others — stroll down to the open-air Palms eatery, where the table has been laid and the stage set for the star of the evening, Bruno Santa Cruz, chef de cuisine, Hyatt Regency Istanbul Ataköy, who has flown down to display his magic. An eclectic variety of seafood is visible in different bowls, alongside others that contain the ingredients needed to ‘cook’ it.
As I chat with Chef Bruno, I discover that ceviche, pronounced ‘say-vee-chay’, is a Latin American delicacy which is essentially prepared without using heat. Chef Bruno, smiling and rotund, is the master of his domain. He quickly demonstrates how he works with his favourites like mussels, shrimps, squids, or lobsters, and plays with flavours like red onion, coriander, green lettuce, yellow corn, red chilli and lime to serve up dishes that pack a punch. Ceviche is light, citrusy, succulent and piquant in all the right proportions. The fare — accompanied by a tangy Peruvian drink (a trifle strong for my constitution) — makes for a slow and leisurely multi-course meal that seduces my palate into a food orgasm.
Chef Bruno points out that it is easy to create ceviche here as the produce available in Goa — and India — has the same flavour as that back in his home town. He adds, “In Peru, we have a saying that if ceviche is not spicy, it is not ceviche. We normally use sea bass or halibut, but any white, non-fatty, flavoursome fish can be used. The fish cooks due to the chemical reaction from the lime juice and one must take care not to overcook it.”
My next rendezvous is with the traditional when we head out to experience slices of Old Goa. We walk through the interiors of the Figueiredo house in Loutolim — where its feisty owner, the indomitable Maria de Lourdes Figueiredo de Albuquerque, takes us through her ancestral home, reputed to be one of Goa’s largest heritage houses. It boasts of an impressive collection of porcelain and furniture that transports one back to a bygone era. We tread gently through the rooms that speak volubly of the past, taking in the Christian iconography in the private chapel, the Chinese silk-embroidered garments, the chests of drawers and the various cupboards that house priceless artefacts. Later, we head out for a hearty meal where we dip into much-loved Goan flavours, tinged with Portuguese hues at Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia in Raia, South Goa. Its walls are painted with Mario Miranda creations. Old souvenirs and live music enhance the native ambience. Iconic offerings like salted ox tongue, fofos (fish cutlets mixed with mashed potatoes and spices) and prawn almôndegas (cutlets) are served here.
As we reluctantly set out for the airport, my bags are filled with cashew nuts, bebinca, sausages, black jaggery and kokum shorbet as I try to transport Goa’s distinctive tastes into my Mumbai home.
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