After emptying a liter of gasoline with the few rupees we had in our pockets, I hopped on the back of the scooter and we darted off toward Siolim for our cooking class. We passed a few cows and dried out rice paddies while zipping past the slower motorbikes and cars in the process. From Vagator Beach, the drive was pretty short, and we noticed the signs for the cooking school as soon as we reached Siolim. We parked up at the side of the road, and walked into the shady outdoor cooking area where would we would spend the next few hours.
Simon and I were greeted by Natty, a native Goan who would be instructing us for the day. With our new recipe books in hand, we spent the next 10 minutes debating which dishes to conjure up. Since we both knew little about Goan cuisine, we had a tough time narrowing it down. In the end, by recognizing the name of one dish and by the recommendation of Natty, we made the final decisions on which 4 dishes to create.
Preparing each dish took much attention to detail, as the spread of spices and ingredients seemed immense compared to cooking at home. Not having seen what any of these spices actually look like, I nibbled and smelled them hoping some would stick in my memory. Knowing that we won’t have the ability to cook for ourselves too much in the next few months, Simon and I took joy in the simple pleasure of pealing garlic, sauteing vegetables and asking about the process. (Well, Simon at least acted like he did.)
Just like Goa itself, the cuisine is a mixture of Arabian, Portuguese and native cultures. Here in India’s smallest state, the mix of East and West co-exist to make for a culture completely different from that of the rest of the country. The tropical climate lends to a plethora of spices, while seafood and coconut milk plays a heavy role in the cuisine.
Pork Vindalho (Pronounced Vin-Dahl-u)
The first dish we started was the vindalho. While many people leave this dish to marinate overnight, we only had a few hours. Still, the finished product was flavorful and pungent. “Vindaloo”, especially in the UK, is cooked up more as a challenge than an enjoyable meal and is usually the hottest thing on the menu. Alternatively, this vindalho was characterized by the sweet and sour flavors from the masala and vinegar marinade. After the pork and sauce cooked on the stove for about an hour, we then took out the pork and sautéed it in a separate pan in order to cook off the fat. No other oil was used in this dish except that which came from the pork itself. After putting the pork back in the sauce, we added freshly cooked french fries and fresh red onions.
Suquem de Beringles
Natty told us, “everyone always loves the savory aubergines.” We took that as a big enough hint to make the dish as well. Good thing we did, as it ended up being our favorite. The eggplant was moist and took the appearance of green chilies rather than eggplant, and tasted more like a complex curry than just a plain dish of sautéed vegetables.
A simple dish, our slices of king fish we perfectly cooked in a coating of spices and bread crumbs. Though it was the easiest to prepare, its simplicity made it delicious.
Instead of plain white rice, we opted for one with fresh vegetables and spices. First, we sautéed cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom together in some oil. We then added diced onion until they became translucent. Next, we added a cup of rice and roasted it with the onion and spices. Lastly, we included various fresh vegetables such as peas, green beans and diced tomatoes along with 2 cups water. We left the rice on the stove until it was fully cooked and the water was completely absorbed. My favorite part of this dish was the subtle hint of cinnamon.
Chapati is one of the types of bread offered on the side of an Indian meal. Very similar to a tortilla, we just rolled out a dough of 1 cup non-refined wheat flour, a pinch of salt, and enough water to combine the ingredients. Natty then instructed us the more you knead to the dough the better the chapati.
“We make tortillas ourselves sometimes, this should be easy for us,” I boasted before rolling the dough. Ironically, my chaptati ended up more resembling the map of India rather than a circle. Simon had a try, but struggled just as much. Embarrassed, we stopped rolling the dough and passed the rolling pin back over to Natty.
After we finished cooking, we admired all the different things we made. It also turned out to be the best meal we had eaten in India yet. We ate as much as we could but still couldn’t even finish it. We took half back to our hostel for dinner.
The class made for a very pleasant activity in an area of India that is mostly preoccupied with taking advantage of the cheap booze and Western food options, rather than going out and experiencing the culture. Though pricey, the class paid for our meals for the entire day (since we took half home) and I’d recommend it for anyone staying in North Goa (Vagator/Anjuna). Bring your own beer if you’d enjoy a Kingfisher during the down time. We wished we had done the same while we waited for the dishes to finish up.
The class is about 2,000 Rupees for about 3 hours. You can find further information on the website, here.
*This class was complimentary in exchange for the post, but all opinions are my own*