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Goa for gourmets

Music, dance and a sumptuous spread... Goa comes alive at Cilantro



Chefs Simon, Mohan Das and Samson cook up delectable fare

THE IRONY could not be missed. Even as men, wearing shirts bearing images of sun-kissed beaches and tall coconut trees, made last-minute arrangements near the Cilantro poolside (at Le Royal Meridien) for a cultural extravaganza meant to announce Viva Goa (August 4 to 8), the heavens opened up.

With the gentle showers threatening to intensify, some of the guests sought shelter under the stylish eaves of Cilantro. You could hear the organisers angrily muttering, "The rain has played spoilsport!" Probably feeling rebuffed by this comment, the showers abated and finally stopped, allowing the band, Wizards, to treat the audience to a shower of Goan music and dance.

While the band sang sunny numbers and played some cheerful beats, the sprightly dancers exemplified the joys of Spring.

The Koty Fugdi (coconut shell dance) and Kunbi (harvest song) were particularly uplifting. Later Wizards' boss Saldanha explained that what we had heard and seen was "mando" or traditional Goan music. "Mando is to Goa what bhangra is to Punjab," he added.

With their ears full of "mando", the guests tucked into the food prepared by Goan chefs Samson and Simon. Samson spoke only a few words. But his preparations did all the talking.

Desserts, a delight

This is not the way to write a food review. You do not begin one with a commentary on the desserts. But this one is an exception, for the desserts gave an eloquent account of what Goan cuisine has to offer.

The ingredients - coconut milk, flour, vanilla essence and eggs - that go into making bibinca may seem simple, but this simple sweet leaves a lingering aftertaste. "You can make bibinca in seven layers as well by using fruits like papaya and chiku." Black jaggery, coconut milk, rice powder and cashew combine to make dodol. Again, simple ingredients. But the dodol tastes anything but ordinary.

Laced with coconut

Coconut is a constant presence in Goan cuisine. You find it in calde-de-verde (vegetable soup) and then in the xacuti-de-galinha (chicken xacuti). Reason: "Goa is a land of coconuts," says Samson.

Most of the guests exhibited great enthusiasm for balchao-de-camarao (prawn baicho), which contains tomato puree, coconut vinegar and dry chilli paste.

As you got ready to leave, Samson announced the good news. "This menu is not all. It changes every day."

To check out what the menu has to offer, call 22314343, ext: 52.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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