Goa has always been known for the rich (and lipsmacking) variety of cuisine served in its many restaurants, cafes, shacks and bars and pubs. In 2020, the food scene had a new entrant who made a huge impact, the home chef.
Home-based Goan chefs, hailing from diverse backgrounds, started their own ventures in a pandemic-riddled year, concocting dishes of varying kinds. In the process, they acquainted the state’s inhabitants with some unconventional cuisines. A few distilled their memories of home-made food into the scope of a menu, while others assimilated dishes from across the world into people’s platters.
In this instalment of our series on home chefs, we chronicle five stories. From extensive breakfasts, Bengali fare, and Kashmiri yakhni, to Arabic shawarma, Bolognese, and authentic Goan home-made food, these connoisseurs are laying out a smorgasbord of food from their kitchens
Chef’s Flair by Allister Fernandes and Alisia Fernandes: For the Love of Unique Combos
A joint venture by a brother-sister duo, Chef’s Flair was launched on Instagram following the onset of the pandemic. According to Alisia, a multitude of people were establishing independent ventures pivoted on DIY projects, clothing, and ornaments. This coaxed them to begin a remote business of their own and support the needs of their family amid unprecedented times. The pair had a shack in Goa’s Calangute beach in the pre-COVID-19 era, and even though business was smooth, the ensuing lockdown rendered their venture obsolete. They decided that the best thing to do would be to set up an online framework that would facilitate the continuation of their work. Their aim was to provide quality food in vast proportions, and at reasonable prices.
Allister, a professional chef, governed the kitchen, while Alisia attended to orders, handled their social media, and assisted Allister in preparations. One of the first dishes to come out of their kitchen was the gargantuan Arabic Shawarma for Rs 140. Little did they know that this would become a runaway bestseller with Goans. The item gained tremendous momentum. A wave of Goans mapped their way to their Calangute-based residence to get the coveted item. In the first week itself, they had sold 70 shawarmas.
Following the shawarma’s immense popularity, they quickly branched out the menu, concocting chicken tikka wraps, shredded chicken sandwiches, Korean wings, honey chilli wings, delectable prawn tacos, and a 14-inch Bolognese-sauce-laden pizza. The quality, quantity and affordability of each product made them very popular.
Every week, they present different items on their menu to pique people’s interest, and maintain the intrigue. For instance, as a part of their Christmas platter, they decided to serve food that residents in close proximity had minimal access to - roast-pork, cutlet-pav, beef cutlet-pav, chilli-pav, and a Cafreal poe served with salad and sliced fried potatoes. Alisia says that brainstorming on a new menu can get extremely challenging as experimentation, the risk-taking, research, and trial-and-error are exhausting. But the preparation part isn’t.
They accept pre-orders only—unless they can accommodate last-minute orders—while their daily schedule is contingent on the item pre-ordered, and the sum of orders received by them. For now, Allister and Alisia only do pick-ups from 5pm to 10pm. However, if people order five or more items at once, and live in/around Calangute, they deliver the package without any charge. Connect with Chef’s Flair here.
KashMash by Chef Fahd: Kashmiri Recipes Out Of A Mother’s Kitchen
A filmmaker by profession, Fahd Shah has inhabited the cities of Bombay, Delhi, and Goa. During his years spent in these places, the Kashmiri in him nurtured a connection with his roots through his mother and maternal grandmother’s recipes for over six years.
During the lockdown, Fahd and his family were residing in Goa. Under his friend’s guidance—a khow suey chef—Fahd kickstarted KashMash, an online service offering Kashmiri-style food. He received a huge response when his menu was launched, an indication that Goans were inclined toward diversifying their meal plans. The venture was a quick success also because Kashmiri food is palatable, doesn't use excessive spices, and accentuates the flavour of the main ingredient, says Fahd.
Currently, Fahd is spearheading KashMash on Sundays. He settles his menu each week, comprising three or four dishes, by Wednesday, and accepts pre-orders until Saturday afternoon. Over the course of the weekend, he invests his time in cooking meals, and delivers them, personally, to customers by Sunday evening. His menu includes popular Kashmiri dishes like yakhni (a yoghurt-based mutton curry), mutton pulao, and marchzwangan korma (fiery mutton-curry peppered with red chillies). These servings are complemented by a homemade onion pickle.
View this post on Instagram
Fahd loves the idea of ‘creating’ dishes, much like his pursuit of filmmaking. He is considering the idea of doing pop-ups with restaurants once a week. Connect with Fahd here.
Nuun: The Flavour of Food by Kheyali Vaze
Nuun, characterised by a return to one’s roots, was nudged into existence through the efforts of Kheyali Vaze. Fractionated into two parts, Kheyali’s service assimilates an extensive breakfast into a coherent platter, and extends beyond the conventionality of certain Bengali cuisines.
Breakfast, or Naashta, starts 7am onwards and concludes at noon. It comprises Turkish eggs, anda bhurji, shakshuka, pancakes, waffles, and similar dishes. It's kind of difficult to get breakfast at 7am in most places in Goa, which is why she does it. Started in September, Naashta culminated in the institution of a Friday-based Bengali-oriented meal. Defined by a tribute to her grandfather, and a hankering to permeate the stereotypical contours containing the diversity of Bengali cuisine, Kheyali decided to concoct recipes rooted in Bengal’s crevices. She emphasies on cuisine that is exclusive to the state’s rural pockets, and ethnic groups, as well as the impact of an Anglo-Indian, Mughlai, and Chinese presence in Bengal on its traditional cuisine threads. Another area she is interested in is the vast vegan options Bengali food offers.
Her Bengali venture can be traced back to the arrangement of consistent pop-ups at her residence in an attempt to remain connected with her grandparents. Soon, this materialised into a legitimate business prospect. She began putting together Bengali dishes (kumror chokka, chicken rezala, panch mishli torkari, and murgi’r jhol, to name a few), desserts, and chutneys, and sending them to customers’ doorsteps. Apart from a phenomenal response from Goa’s Bengali community, even those fostering no Bengali roots indulged in her dishes time and again.
Since her menu varies from one week to another—necessitating copious amounts of research—she is constantly engaging individuals. She does try to predict the success of newly-introduced ingredients, a tricky situation to manoeuvre.
She also functions as a private caterer. Once you pre-order your meal plan, she will deliver it to your doorstep. She also does the cooking process at her client’s house sometimes.
She starts her prep at 3am and concludes packaging by 11am, and completes deliveries by noon (a collaborative effort with a delivery agent). For the rest of the day, she rekindles a connection with painting, spends time with her dogs, or curates menus for private parties. She conducts online classes, and cooking workshops as well.
A former former co-owner of Café de Goa in Saligao, Kheyali mentioned that her work-from-home set-up is extremely fulfilling. She doesn’t want to deviate from this line any time soon, but an expansion is in the offing. Connect with Nuun here.
Patrão's Deli by Pablo Miranda: Unconventional International Cuisines
Headlined by Pablo Miranda, Patrão's Deli was birthed with the idea of familiarising people with cuisines that are scarcely available on standard menus, and mediating a rarely-served dish to its destination against the backdrop of a lockdown. Pablo kickstarted his business with ramen. As responses spiralled, he began broadening the limits of his venture.
He’d concoct dishes to satiate his cravings, and multiply them across increasingly-saturated platters. A lot of his friends weren’t well-versed with cooking, a few didn’t want to direct their efforts toward crafting a dish from scratch. Simultaneously, he struck a balance with the ‘deli’ section of the brand with ready-to-eat steak, pastrami, and ham.
Patrão's fashioned Bolognese bowls, Bali in a Box, Bibimbap, Tonkotsu, Pastrami Wraps, and similar country-specific dishes. He realised that his venture was predicated on dishes that weren’t readily available in local groceries, fostered long shelf lives, or teetered at the precipice of obscurity.
His venture’s committed to encapsulating the significance of an experience. Bali in a Box, for instance, captures the essence of the Indonesian island, and attempts to reward customers with a travel-like experience from home. Hence, cocktails in tender coconuts, as well as garlands, accompany the food.
His is also a green initiative. He sources terracotta bowls from Goan potters in lieu of plastics/paper as packaging. Customers can re-use these bowls, paint them, and turn them into flower-pots.
View this post on Instagram
Previously a one-man army, Patrão's has evolved into a team of sixteen people, including chefs, purchase managers, delivery agents, accountants, and a service team. Now, the deli-cum-restaurant attends to a thousand portions over the course of a few days, supplies products to Delhi and Bombay, and is in the process of tailing long-term projects.
Pablo’s restaurant, Antonio, a tapas bar, is located on 31st January Road in Panjim, and offers dishes like salted-tongue flat-bread, raw oysters on the half-shell, and so much more. Connect with Patrão's Deli here.
MumMai by Elvis and Emilia Victor: Home-Cooked Goan
Stemming from a mother-son partnership, MumMai ('maternal grandmother’ in Konkani) was launched once COVID-19 pervaded the country’s borders. According to Elvis, the pandemic compelled him to shutter his food truck temporarily. As a result, he had enough time to strike a collaboration with his mother, Emilia Victor, and recreate her much sought-after dishes.
Savoured by family and friends, her food is now available to all those who hanker for authentic Goan home-cooked dishes. The recipes are family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Currently, MumMai delivers around Panjim, and functions over the weekend. The duo’s routine involves a visit to Panaji market on Friday mornings. They filter through ingredients, and finalise their menu in accordance with the same. By evening, their menu is out, and over the weekend, deliveries are done.
His favourites include Chicken Cafreal, Pork Feijuade, Pork Sorpotel, and Beef Roulade. Every week, they do three different meals. Elvis has a plethora of culinary experiences, having worked at Taj, Hyatt, and Marriot, among others. His food truck in Taleigao specialises in Mexican street food. Now, he is dabbling with the idea of extending MumMai’s scope, and transitioning into a restaurant-like space. He says that the expansion will be predicated on home-made food as well. Connect with them here.
View this post on Instagram