Tag Archives: goa

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Savouring the world, one dish a time!

My first taste of Portuguese food was in Goa. The owners of the now restored 213 year old mansion Palácio do Deão, built by a Portuguese nobleman, had opened their doors to visitors for a taste of the traditional cuisine. I don’t remember the names of the dishes now but our hosts Rubem and Celia Vasco da Gama had gone to great lengths to lay out a memorable spread. I do remember the fish cooked to perfection. And the calamari flavored to bring any foodie to raptures.

Dining area
This old but restored Portuguese mansion made the ideal setting for a traditional meal

A taste of Portugal Main course

I’m glad I captured some of these culinary delights on camera so when I sit back and think of the delicious food, I can supplement my memories with photographs. Of course, the images don’t do justice to the actual taste of the mouth-watering delicacies served, but they only increased my curiosity about the cuisine and food of Portugal.

Goa was a Portuguese colony till as late as 1954 and the influences on the food and culture are indelible.

The Portuguese are said to have brought in potatoes, tomatoes, guavas and even cashews from Brazil to Goa and many of these ingredients today, find their way into Goan dishes, especially the Christian fare.

In my mind, there is no better way to explore a place than through it’s food and cuisine. And as cliched as it might sounds, I do actually live to eat so it seems but a natural way for me to explore a new place. I look forward to my next meal with anticipation, especially when I am travelling. I usually go armed with a list of recommended dishes and make sure I try at least a few of them.

Noodles
When in South East Asia, it’s difficult to resist a meal without noodles

Not only is exploring local cuisine interesting, but eating as the locals do adds to the whole experience.

I was recently in Vietnam, when I got to sample some really scrumptious local fare. From the traditional pho, to fresh and fried spring rolls, to the gorgeous (and tummy filling) pancakes filled with shrimp and rice, it was definitely a trip to remember for me. I even have memories of what I ate and at which particular place. The little non-assuming roadside eatery in Saigon where we sampled fresh spring rolls for the first time.

Making of the spring roll
A lady cooking fresh spring rolls; this has been her livelihood her whole life is what we’re told

The fish at a homestay in Mekong Delta, served like I’ve never fried seen before. The spring rolls we first learnt to make on a cruise ship and then relished. And the list goes on…

Pho in Vietnam
You can’t leave Vietnam without tasting the pho

Lots of seafood!
Streets are lined with sellers who pile up their stock and wait for buyers

Ingredients for the spring roll
The fresh spring roll is both delicious and healthy

I’ll have what he’s having!”

In March of this year, during a trip to Kerala I met with food and travel blogger, photographer Nelson Carvalheiro (and belatedly also found out how famous he really is!). Nelson in fact, through his amazing food pictures and experiences has the ability to bring about the above reaction from any onlooker.

Yoga poses with Nelson
Nelson indulging in a spot of yoga to get rid of all those calories piled up during our Kerala trip

During the trip, our meals were memorable, not only because of the varied spread but because of the fact that it would bring us together to discuss more about our cuisine and influences. We enjoyed authentic Kerala cuisine, the rice delicacies, the avial and stew, the fish cooked in different styles and best of all, the famous Kerala sadya (a multi-spread vegetarian meal) served during festivals but where everyone got a lesson on how to eat with their hands. It was an experience like no other. I was so taken in by the meal served on the houseboat while cruising the backwaters (probably our best!) that I even wrote about the experience.

Traditional fare from Kerala - appam with egg stew
Yummy egg stew served with fluffy appams in Kerala, India

Putta and kadlakai curry
Another delicacy called putta, with coconut and rice, along with kadla curry

As I head to Europe next in August visiting friends from various regions for the next couple of months, I am definitely looking forward to the more attractive aspect – sampling local fare. From the seafood paella and sangria of Spain to the variety of cheese in France, to the famed seafood and other delicacies of Portugal (if I am given a chance!), I’m surely looking forward to this trip already.

I definitely wouldn’t mind a “foodgasm”. I can’t think of a better way to experience Portugal!

(NOTE: This is an entry for the 16 day food tour of Portugal being conducted by APTECE. More details are here on Nelson’s blog. The last day is July 31.)

South India

My top 5 picks in the south

Something I wrote a while ago, published by rediff.com.

The places I’ve listed (some of them are possibly pretty familiar to most of you) and yet I was surprised when a very dear friend today confessed that she has never been to Pondicherry. So there goes! I take it for granted that these are relatively popular places, but if you haven’t visited yet, now is a good time.

I’ve also listed some of my favourite places to stay in each of them.

My picks: Pondicherry, Tharangamvadi (though I believe even Tharangampadi is an acceptable spelling), Nersa, Goa and Havelock (in the Andamans). Not sure if the last one technically can be called south India, but it’s still the deep south.

Top 5 Must Travel Places in South India

Enjoy :-)

 

 

 

 

 

Olaulim Backyards

Olaulim Backyards: Where time stands still, but a lot can happen!

They had me at Richard Parker!

The one who rules

This cosy homestay, situated in a very quiet and serene part of Goa will transport you to another world all together. Away from the buzz and the humdrum, the noise and pollution of the city, it’s a relief as you step into what is literally a “backyard”! All around is just green as far as the eye can see. And a creek that lazily winds its way into the property completing the perfect picture.

And fittingly, you know why this serene place is called Olaulim Backyards. Inhabited by a motley group of permanent residents (besides the hosts and their 2 kids) – three dogs, a pony, a donkey and a cat called Richard Parker – every moment is a delight.

Gone grazing...

I was lucky to spend 3 days at Olaulim, in the peak of the monsoons and I don’t think I’ve seen Goa in a more beautiful season – bathed in rain, the countryside is a shade of green that you’ll never find in a concrete jungle. The roads are inviting, winding and wet. And the best part of the rains is that life doesn’t stop in these parts. Armed with large raincoats, people go about their business not really caring much. It does rain incessantly for days on end and the monsoon in Goa is a long one.

Olaulim is run by Savio and his wife Pirkko, who are friendly, accommodating and immediately make you feel at home. I got shown to my cosy cottage overlooking the Olauim creek, with Richard Parker meowing loudly to make sure I was settled in properly. From the cottage, is a lovely view of the fields in the horizon and the water in between. I ventured out on my first kayak adventure and spent a happy hour enjoying the peace and quiet. Just the chirping of birds, the ruffled waters as I rowed and the occasional flying fish performing acrobats for me, it seemed!

Welcome to the cosy room

There’s never a dull moment. Either you’re lounging around in the central dining area – naturally my favourite place – or diving into the pool enjoying the beautiful waters. Or you can borrow one of the cycles and go off to discover the Goan countryside. Like I did. And got caught in the pouring rain, but enjoyed it immensely. Give me these  lovely hilly country roads any day, over miles and miles of boring highway!

Some fun in the creek

And then there was all this amazing food to be eaten. Be warned – if you’re visiting, make sure you get a healthy dose of exercise during the day. Otherwise, you might just get back home a few kgs heavier. Like I did. Despite all my attempts at cycling, kayaking, swimming, I still over ate! With delicious fish fry, fresh vegetables and great company, it’s quite easy to get carried away.

During my stay, I also met a very interesting couple who had driven all the way down South with their two kids. It was heart warming to see them enjoy their time, playing with the animals and enjoying the outdoors. One of the advantages of living in homestays are the interesting people you meet and have dinner time conversations with.

I would have probably stayed on forever (or asked to be adopted by Savio and Pirkko!), but had to head back eventually.

More pictures: Goa Monsoon Diaries
Olaulim Backyards home page

(Note: If you’re looking for a place to stay in Goa, and like the sound of this one, head over to my Best Homestays India blog for the full review and contact details.)

Palacio de Deao

A Palacio by the River

Goa is one place which springs a surprise every time I visit.

Though I really like the water, after my December 2008 cycling tour where I saw a lot of the Goan countryside (which I really liked), I usually make it a point to go inland in search of interesting sights and sounds. The beaches are where the crowds land up. The interiors of Goa on the other hand is really verdant and beautiful and has much more to offer in terms of history and heritage.

Dining area

We came upon this piece of treasure when we were holidaying in South Goa. The hosts of the guest house we were staying in recommended a visit to this Portuguese mansion located in Quepem, a town near Margao.

We followed instructions and landed in Quepem town, after which it wasn’t too difficult to find this landmark – the Palácio do Deão.

Beautifully restored and sitting pretty amidst lush greenery, this is one place that comes much recommended if ever you’re in that part of Goa. You need to call ahead and also make sure you inform them that you want to have a meal there as they only take prior bookings. The owners will give you a detailed tour of the interiors and exteriors so keep enough time to browse around at leisure. They do not have accommodation though – it’s only open for a tour and a meal.

The property is reviewed on the Best Homestays website, so read it here!

Palacio by the River