Wednesday, January 25, 2017

PANDI CURRY ON CHOGM ROAD AND PIT STOPS ON THE POLL ROAD

We were on the slow boat to Alleppey, or thought we were, a backwater symphony, sailing through Kerala,

By | 08 Jan, 2017, 02:16AM IST

A-   A+

We were on the slow boat to Alleppey, or thought we
were, a backwater symphony, sailing through Kerala,
in the heart of the Chogm road to Porvorim, and getting
to know why Kerala is indeed the abode of the God’s. Kerala’s
cuisine can invoke any members of the divine pantheon for the
extravagance of creativity.
Recent travels over the year end, hunting for and experimenting
with different kinds of
cuisine have unearthed some
amazing hidden gems and
surprisingly quite a few of
them have propped up on
the Chogm road, north of the
Porvorim din, which has fast
turned into restaurant country.
The “Kerala” journey
was undertaken not at a
standalone place from the Malabar coast or the backwaters but
a divine place in its own right, unmistakably ubiquitous, and
done in a minimalistic way on the terrace of the hotel, with menu
cards clipped on old school clipboards and placed in baskets
on a cycle – yes a cycle. MOKI which is a combination of the
names of its partners, Moni and Kiran is the coming together of
a Chef – Prakhyat (aka Moni) and a marketing whiz Kiran who
one hasn’t yet met. Chef Moni served up some very good steak
and continental food in a restaurant he worked for in Colva and
meeting him at the “other end”, at Sangolda, after so many years
was fun.
While there will be time to salivate over MOKI’s continental
outpourings, the X factor at MOKI is not the Goan or the
continental but their South Indian curries, with more of Kerala
than others. And Prakhyat gets you right there in that houseboat
or toddy tavern or the road side dhaba with the ‘meals ready’
signboard. The houseboat special is the mango infused kingfish
or prawns curry from – where else – Alleppey. Closely battling
for attention on the curry cuisine fashion walk is the ‘Chettinad
eral kuzuhambhu (madras prawn curry). But let’s not digress
for there is pork to be had. So the ‘Thattukada style beef’ was
promptly ordered. This comes with black pepper and a strong,
but not overpowering, curry leaf flavour, followed by Coorg style
slow roast pork, or pandi curry, had typically with akki otti (roti)
or kadamputtu (rice balls). But pandi curry becomes pandi curry
only with kachampuli vinegar, which we hope is sourced from a
traditional supplier in Coorg.
There was so much to be had. Buddy Shyam, who spotted
MOKI and did the introductions, has done great service to
humanity (which in this case is taking this humble eater-writer
there). The wish list for the next visit has already been made and
it’ll be a journey from ‘parsi’ to Paris – Dhansak rubbed basa
fillets with chilled humus, and then, tenderloin steak in blue cheese
sauce. While we stayed clear of continental for now, where MOKI
scores, according to reliable reports, as all good steak places do,
is their very minute attention to the sauces and accompaniments
such as the red wine sauce, the black pepper sauce and garlic herb
butter.
At night the charm enhances on this terrace with its view of the
valley, the evening lights and amazing playlist making encores so
very desirable. Bring it on MOKI. Post script: Elections come with
some delightful accompaniments. You end up travelling to parts of
Goa you don’t normally travel to and this is when unexpected food
discoveries happen – in Bicholim, Valpoi, Sanguem, Ponda and as
yours truly heads out to report, politics will not be the only thing
in mind. But there are old faithfuls which will be used to dine and
plan as pit stops on the election travel route.
Sheila Bar and Restaurant at Sancoale at the edge of Sao Jacinto
island will serve the usual, the spicy red chicken, the prawn kismur
and the think prawn curry or for that matter Cajetan’s place in
Bambolim right on the beach where a mean pork solantolem with
sea salt can be had as the political pulse of St Andre is taken.
And finally, the last pick for this column – the Xavier shack
at Sernabatim on pristine white sands to spend a rare languid
afternoon, soaking in the sea and facts newly learnt on the poll
road. And these are the places where the voice of Goa will be and
where the voice of Goa will be heard, with generous helpings of
the kind of food which only we have.