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Bibinca, fenni and dekhni

The ongoing Goan food festival at Hotel Le Meridien brings alive the smells, sounds and taste of Goa. MINU ITTYIPE says the flavours are exciting!

MANY YEARS ago, one Easter Sunday in sunny Aldona, Goa, a baby boy was born to Remijio Fernandez and Maria Augusta. When Remijio heard the glad news he said "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!" And without much ado the child was christened Aleluia. When Aleluia entered the eighth class in his school education he was introduced to the intricacies of culinary experiences by some friends. He learnt with natural ease and when he cooked for his Goan friends, they filled their growling stomachs with good things and proclaimed in wonder "Aleluia! Aleluia!"

Now this Chef Aleluia who has been cooking for the past twenty years is right here with another Chef Lawrence in Kochi at Le Meridien for the Goan festival. The festival is on till the 31st of March.

Chef Aleluia points out "The Portuguese ruled Goa for over 400 years and their influence can be seen everywhere and has left its mark on our cooking." This is very evident for right from the Chef's name to the dishes that he is offering have exciting foreign flavours.

The Goan cuisine is distinct because the ingredients are diverse and has a large dose of coconut milk for some dishes or a dash of wine that gives it a unique tang. Walk into Treasure Trove restaurant at Le Meridien and the spicy vapours get you smacking your lips long before you tuck in. The Soups Cal de Verde is made of chicken stock while Sopa de Grossa is filled with vegetables and macaroni. The main course has Pork Sorpotel, which is a sweet and sour dish, the red Pork Vindaloo that would burn your ears but you can't resist it despite the pungency. The thinly sliced Rava fried fish is so crisp and crunchy that "no one can just eat one." The Chicken Cafriel is sweet and pungent cooked to perfection in a paste of green coriander and chillies. The Pork stew is not made of pork alone but is a combination of pork, beef and vegetables. And the vegetables are decidedly different; the ubiquitous red spinach is sautéed so well that it makes a far more interesting bite than our red spinach thoran. The Cauliflower Caldine comes sans the prawns for the vegetarians. Chef Aleluia gives a tip "Add prawns to any vegetable dish and the flavours of the prawns fuse with the vegetable flavours and it tastes very good." For those who enjoy the very fruity taste of Fenni, wash the meal down with some heady Fenni.

The dessert section has the famous Goan sweetmeat Bibinca made of coconut milk, egg yolks, maida, sugar and this is baked in the oven for hours.

Dodol is another Goan delicacy, which is very much like our black wheat halwa. Otherwise the dessert section was a big disappointment. The Chef however promises that in the coming days he would be tossing up some Goan pancakes topped with honey - some plain, some fruity.

While you enjoy the food the Goan dancers Adrian, Reeve, Dolly and Gracy and a Band named "Wizard" entertain you with dance and music. The Dekhni dance made famous by Raj Kapoor's "Bobby" is a semi classical Konkani dance.

The story that is depicted is about two temple dancers who want to go for their friends wedding and they approach the boatman to ferry them across the river. The boatman says "No! The river is rough!" The dancers offer the boatman their gold jewellery but the boatman is still firm "No!" So the dancers dance for the boatman and this time he ferries them across the river. The other dances are Khundbi, Kotti Fugdi and a very Portuguese folk dance called Corridinho, which celebrates a beautiful woman. The dance, the music and the food - transport you for a brief period to another place sunny Goa and it is worth every moment.

Chef Aleluia's Chicken Cafriel


TRY THIS typical Goan chicken Chef Aleluia's, very own.

Ingredients

Chicken-1kg
Coriander Leaves- 500 gms
Green Chillies 6-8
Garlic- 1 pod
Ginger 2 inch piece
Chilly sauce- a dash
Khus Khus -1tsp

Method:

Cut the chicken into small pieces. Rub the chicken with salt and a little bit of turmeric and fry lightly. Grind all the ingredients from coriander to khus khus very finely. Marinate the fried chicken with the ground paste for 1-2 hours. Then cook in a vessel on low heat for 15 minutes.

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