08 Mar 2020  |   04:37am IST

Raia, colva, panjim-home is where the food is

Raia, colva, panjim-home  is where the food is

This is a tale which winds itself from the fields of Tilamol, Quepem, to the seas of the Bay of Bengal and Indian ocean, to Manila,


winding itself back to Goa and to the village of Colva. It is a story of tragedy, sadness and triumph. And at the end of the day it is again a story of a Goan family, which shapes its passion and future around food, good goan food.

Benindo, like many boys from South Goa, started sailing, a life at sea which beckons generations of sea farers. After a steady job and a career he got married to Sandra. With Ben at sea and with food running in the veins of the family, like many, the couple decided to start a restaurant, not at their backyard of Tilamol but in Colva. While Benindo would be sailing, ´Ben & Sand’ would be Sandra’s baby.

But all dreams do not go according to script. The year was 1999, ‘Ben and Sand’ did open to the joy of the couple and shortly after, Ben had to go back to sea. According to his nephew Amancio, tragedy struck shortly. With his ship near Manila in the Philippines, Ben was struck with yellow fever, a disease from which he could not recover.

A grief stricken Sandra, did not allow Ben’s passing to let their joint dream collapse. With the help of Amancio, who studied Commerce in the Rosary College, Margao, Sandra started life again. “Ben and Sand” carried on, in the memory of Benindo and with the fighting spirit of Sandra, ably assisted by Amancio. Over time Amancio has become the pillar and the face of Ben and Sand, in a little lane off the Margao-Colva road not far from the Colva police station road. It’s a garden restaurant with a feel of being outdoors. And while home-made Goan masalas started this journey off, Ben and Sand has expanded its repertoire to give us flavours of the North. Last week, a friend and mentor Cristo Prazeres de Costa , the illustrious son of one of Herald’s foremost editors Amadeus Prazeres de Costa, and yours truly, spent an evening at Ben and Sand. The conversations, as they always do with Cristo, in different geographical spots, centered around Goa and its issues, the deep linkages between Goa and Portugal, of historians, writers and artistes, and of the need to speak to and document stories and information of those who are ageing , about aspects of Portuguese India and other stories from the Lusophone world.

 The masala squid and the spicy chicken curry gave us company. A more elaborate evening would have included tandoori mackeral or prawns.

Goa is dotted with stories of such places, where a family extends its kitchen and showcases its skill of making delightful home-made food, that the world comes to eat. It’s a model which is so unique to Goa. And even as a bit of newsprint is used to stress this, it is really worth it.

Across Colva,  on the other side of goa, right in the heart of Fontainhas in Panjim, literally on the doorstep of yours truly, one of the most Nostalgic enterprises, on the same model has arrived. Next to St Sebastian Chapel, in a quaint home, which had earlier housed an oriental restaurant café, Margarida Tavora e Costa of Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia Raia, responded  to the call of her family in Fontainhas and agreed to use the same space as the earlier restaurant to weave some of her culinary magic.

While the menu is not as elaborate as the mother restaurant, the spirit is a little more eclectic. For the hordes of tourists who walk the labyrinth of by-lanes, a little spot for a bite of pasties de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) a lingering taste of Lisboa, the melt in your mouth mutton samosas, the prawn balchao, the bacalao fritters (bolinho de bacalao, salted cod shipped from Lisbon and stocked at Nostalgia Raia)  the salted tongue and the sausage and tongue pois and paos, is what a Goa vacation is all about.  Get a seat by the window, watch the sunlight stream in through shards of light, see the charm and magnificence of the homes just outside, hear myriad tongues and greetings, Bem Vindo, Bomdia, Ciao, Buonasera as Italians, French and yes the local Portuguese speaking folks in Fontainhas, where this is literally the first language, mingle and gather.

Nikhil Tavora, Margarida’s nephew runs the place with elan and gusto making this a comfort zone where you amble in almost by habit. And yes the coffee is lovely because of the good selections of coffee pods, though in a spirit of absolute honesty, Carlos Noronha’s freshly roasted coffee beans of Café Caravela in the Latin Quarter, have the robustness, that pods cannot quite match. However, a cuppa coffee at Café Nostalgia with a pasties da Nata (though this is handmade and supplied by Marlene next door of a quality as close to those in Lisboa) is as good a way to start a quiet morning.

Even as restaurants by big daddies from Delhi and elsewhere open up with PR campaigns and fanfare, “influenced” by social media influencers, the simple family run places in Goa  remain under the radar and continue to bring Goa and its homeliness to so many of us. They need all our prayers and wishes.

And yes, the real food awards should go to those who put home into their food.










Iddhar Udhar