A Goan chillout
Sossegado is a must-visit for those who love coastal cuisine. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
THERE'S SOMETHING about Goa: a distinct allure, a picture-book languor, a vagabond spirit. The sand, the sun, the fish, the feni, all ingredients for that perfect hangout. If you cannot make it to this dreamy land of beaches and tall coconut trees, you could comfort yourself with a visit to Sossegado, the one-of-its kind Goan-Konkani restaurant in the city. Of course, you will get the food and feel, but not feni, about which the Goans are extremely passionate.
Sossegado, which literally means to chill out, is located in the quiet first floor of an otherwise busy Dr. Rajkumar Road, in a rather unusual locality for such cuisine, Rajajinagar. One really doesn't expect the people of this largely Kannada area to go check out Goan and Konkani cuisine.
Sami Bagchi, the man who runs this aesthetically done-up place with a sea-feel to it, bails me out of my confusion: "We simply couldn't find a place in the more cosmopolitan localities of Bangalore. They were far too expensive for our budget. So we settled down to this, hoping that people would come the distance if they are keen to taste speciality cuisine."
Sami Bagchi's friend and partner Chetan Kamath is from Dakshina Kannada, and in the process of setting up the restaurant they visited Goa several times, met several people and took authentic tips on local cuisine. In fact, much of their ingredients including fish, prawn, and crab come from the Karwar belt. "The fish and prawn that come from there have a sweet taste, they are world-class," they explain.
They also have three chefs from Goa, apart from one local chap who dishes out North Indian fare for those who want it. As me and my friend (who graciously offered to taste the non-vegetarian cuisine for me) sank into their comfy wrought-iron-cane chairs, they brought piping hot neer dosés, typical coastal delicacies. One could hardly wait to bite into those snow white, lacy, fluffy dosés. Absolutely heavenly.
Goan cuisine is an interesting mix of varied influences. One can distinctly savour the existence of two separate traditions, Hindu and Christian, of course with a Portuguese touch to it.
Though the recipes and techniques are different, there are some points where they come together and produce culinary wonders. For instance, for a blue-blooded Konkani, fed and watered in and around Udupi, the neer dosé will normally be accompanied by a thick jaggery syrup or a sweetened coconut filling. But what was on offer here was a fish curry, and for the vegetarian, Goan vegetable fugad. Fugad is a fusion of sorts, for it had crunchy, half-cooked vegetables with a generous helping of finely grated coconut, and some very mild spices. It had a remarkable fresh taste to it and one almost couldn't stop eating it.
Vegetable xacuti was again mixed vegetable, but gravy-based. It had a strange, distinct taste to it though. Didn't feel too comfortable with the aroma. Chetan explains: "That's Malwani, a masala that's particular to the Karwar region." It is made by a dazzling permutation and combination of spices and ingredients.
My carnivorous friend got fish in green curry, something called fish caldinho. According to him, that was the best order of the evening. Much like a South Indian curry, one could eat it with either rice or neer dosé (he ate it with both). It has a predominantly coconut flavour, but well balanced by the spice and palak (so he thought). The cook later came around and told us that it was prepared with a generous helping of rum!
Goa is not particularly known for its vegetarian dishes. Sossegado has great fare for the non-vegetarian, and far fewer choices for us veggies. Fish and chips, surprisingly, came in the form of a starter. The fish (seer fish, also known as king fish or anjal in local parlance) four crisp, deep-fried pieces retained a lot more oil than it should have. So, making a meal of it was out of question. Usually it comes with a salad, but not here. The French fries were less crisp than oily (that probably explains why it was served on a plate covered with serviettes). The absence of the salad convinced my friend that Sossegado had turned this traditionally Continental meal into a starter. Maybe Sossegado should stick to traditional Goan cuisine at which they are very good, and forget the more English ones.
Oh, yes, we forgot the soup. The Sossegado special crab, prawn soup had the aroma of the sea, which egged on my friend to dig deep into the bowl. "It is refreshingly different with a dash of Goan spice from the bland sweet corn soups we are so used to," he pronounced his verdict.
For those like me with an absolute sweet tooth, Goan cuisine offers the famous bebinca. This sweet, which comes in layers and layers, is made of the extract of coconut milk, flour, and sugar. Each scrumptious layer has to be baked before the next one is added, "though not many people nowadays have the time to make the traditional 16 layers," explains Chetan. A well-made bebinca is a melt-in-the-mouth dream. And then there was the jaggery-flavoured fudge, dodol, made from palm-sap jaggery, rice flour, and coconut. Of course, both these sweets were drenched in ice-cream (absolutely sinful).
What was surprisingly missing from the menu was rasam, kadi, and other dishes spiked with kokum, the dark, sour, tangy fruit, which is a coastal classic. Also, missing was the raw cashew that goes into so many curries and sabjis. Remember the famous bibbe upkari, that's part of every traditional Konkani meal?
For those who have a penchant for new flavours, Sossegado is a must-visit eatery. It can be contacted on 56986766.
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