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Palolem Beach, Goa  (Photo:
jackol)


 

       

goan holiday

 
 

...or a table at Tabla...!

   

 

Goa is gentle beautiful beach country: old Portuguese churches, lovely 17th century mansions, clay-tiled roofs under swaying trees. The old hippie haven of the 70s has gone modern.  There is the distinctive and delicious Portuguese-influenced cuisine and lovely weather for most of the year, except for the monsoon season when the Arabian Sea rages and rainstorms come swooping in.... The Portuguese influence is everywhere.  After all, this was Portuguese territory for more than four centuries, until 1961, a base that had initially been established for control of the spice route. This is, after all, a story that revolves around food.

 

And at Tabla, appropriately, there is what is called a Spice Room!  Floyd Cardoz, the groundbreaking chef and co-owner of Tabla (whose family hails from Goa) has said, "We go through $10,000 worth of spices a month...We keep our spices in sealed containers in a room separate from the kitchen away from the heat.”

 

Goan food is essentially a fusion cuisine, local ingredients and spices, with the Portuguese influence running strong – pork, beef, the use of alcohol in food.  A lot of fish dishes because it is on the coast.  The addition of vinegar which is quite uncommon in Indian cooking.  The use of coconut.  Piquant fiery vindaloos, or vindalhos (from vinho de Alhos).  Prawn balchão (prawns in a tangy tomato and onion based spicy sauce, a dish which was actually brought to Goa by the Portuguese from their outpost in Macau, where it is called balichão), pork roasts, chourisso (a spicy Goan pork sausage), xacuti (a chicken or meat dish seasoned with coconut, pepper, star anise), heavenly fish curries, the famous feni (fermented coconut liquor), bibinca (a delicious custard of egg yolks, coconut milk, nutmeg and flour).

 


Vanilla Bean Kulfi at Tabla, (Photo: jasonlam)

 

Floyd Cardoz, who began his career in India, says that he always wanted to "...mix and match Indian with European food, but in India I was told it couldn't be done, that Indian spices were simply too strong for European food."  What he had come across was the dull place Indian cuisine had found itself in, the bastion of traditionalists, a codified set of recipes that had stopped being innovative.  Scratch the surface of any cuisine and one will find the disparate global influences, the use of local seasonal ingredients, a lack of insularity.  Cuisine, like language, always the better for being open to influences, accretive, fluid, innovative.  Sublime when the innovation is handled with the subtle sophistication of the master who has a wide vocabulary and brilliant technique, so that here, in Cardoz’s hands, the menu is no chutnified patois, but instead displays an almost Shakespearean skill and audacity in creating new words and the knowing tweaking of the traditional and familiar. 

 

Cardoz trained under Gray Kunz at Lespinasse and his work reveals some of those influences: Tabla is all about the use of seasonal American ingredients, French technique, Indian seasonings, and always, and delightfully so, the Goan influence.  American standards come to breathtaking new life.  Crab cakes are served with Goan guacamole (this a Cardoz invention) and tamarind chutney.  Completely innovative and unfamiliar territory that he has been charting for over a decade at Tabla, and why we keep going back.

 

Ruth Reichl writing in the The New York Times after Tabla first opened said, “The flavors are so powerful, original and unexpected that they evoke intense emotions.” 

 

Eat: Tabla

 

Travel: Hip Hideaways in Goa at i-escape.com

 

Cook: One Spice Two Spice, American Food, Indian Flavors, Floyd Cardoz

 

Tags: food  travel  goa  portugal

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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