Preserving the Flavor of Tradition: Meet the Guardians of Goan Cuisine

By Ivan PetrenkoFeb 13, 2024 16:36 PMNews
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One of the most beautiful beaches in Goa, Palolem Beach
One of the most beautiful beaches in Goa, Palolem Beach. Source: unsplash

Goa, with its sandy shores and vibrant culture, is also a haven for gastronomes seeking the authentic flavors of traditional Goan cuisine. Amid the changing culinary landscape, a dedicated group of chefs and home cooks are striving to keep the heritage of Goan food alive, offering a taste of tradition from their kitchens and farms.

Shubhra Shankhwalker: A Steward of Saraswat Cuisine

In the serene village of Camurlim, North Goa, Shubhra Shankhwalker, a graphic designer turned culinary connoisseur, welcomes visitors into her red-roofed farmhouse. Here, she introduces them to the intricacies of Hindu Saraswat cuisine, a testament to Goa's diverse gastronomy. Contrary to common misconceptions, she emphasizes that Goan Hindu cuisine includes a variety of meats and fish, prepared with meticulously chosen ingredients and age-old recipes passed down through generations.

The Essence of Goan Cooking: Freshness and Seasonality

Shubhra’s kitchen reveals no shortcuts. From scratch-made masalas to rock salt sourced from local salt pans, every dish is a celebration of freshness and seasonality, especially fish — a staple of Goan diets. Her approach underscores the traditional wisdom of eating fish fresh and according to the season, a practice deeply rooted in Goa's coastal culture.

Daily Bread and the Portuguese Legacy

Goa's culinary heritage, enriched by 451 years of Portuguese influence, is famously represented in its bread. From the toddy-fermented poee and fluffy pao to the crusty kakonn, bread remains an integral part of Goan identity, a legacy of the Portuguese era now woven into the fabric of daily Goan life.

The Goan Kitchen: A Homage to Tradition

Further south in Margao, Crescy Baptista and Oliver Fernandes of The Goan Kitchen not only run a restaurant but also host lunch experiences at Crescy's home, offering a deep dive into Goan Catholic cooking. Their meals, rich in meats and fish, reflect the Portuguese influence and Goan's seasonal eating habits, providing guests with an authentic taste of local cuisine often absent in commercial eateries.

Avinash Martins: Reimagining Goan Cuisine

Chef Avinash Martins, on the other hand, offers a modern take on traditional Goan food through his venture, Cavatina. During the lockdown, Martins explored Goan villages, unearthing forgotten recipes and local artisanal practices, which he now incorporates into his dishes. His chef’s table, C’est L’Avi, nestled in a jungle of cashew and coconut plantations, presents Goan cuisine in new, surprising ways while staying true to its roots.

Preserving Goan Culinary Heritage

As Goa’s culinary scene evolves, with an influx of international cuisines and dining concepts, the efforts of individuals like Shubhra, Crescy, Oliver, and Avinash become ever more crucial. They not only preserve the traditional Goan cuisine but also enrich it, ensuring that the legacy of Goan food continues to thrive in the modern era.

A Taste of Tradition Amid Modernity

In a world rapidly embracing the new, the dedication of these culinary guardians serves as a reminder of the importance of tradition. Through their kitchens, they offer a gateway to the past, inviting both locals and visitors to savor the authentic tastes of Goa, ensuring that its rich culinary heritage endures.

 

Exploring the depth and diversity of Goan cuisine through these passionate individuals offers both a culinary delight and a cultural journey, reminding us of the enduring power of food to connect us to our roots.

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