A GOAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO GOAN FOOD IN MUMBAI
WORDS BY JOANNA LOBO
Goan food is the new flavour of the season in Mumbai. Tourists who travel to the sunshine state clearly can’t get enough of the food – the choris or cutlet pao; the Portuguese-influenced rissois, vindalho, and sorpotel; the coconut and amsol-filled curries; and the coconut-milk based dodol and bebinca.
It’s an experience that is now possible to avail of – sometimes at a price – in the city. There’s no feni or shack, and the sunshine and sand are missing, but a few restaurants in the city are doing their bit to provide a feel and a taste of Goan cuisine.
This eating house is often ignored by those seeking out the more popular New Martin around the corner, but a visit to this four-seater restaurant will surprise you. Gables – which offers free WiFi – has a faux tiled roof inside and two glass-fronted stands showcasing chops, cutlets, and other fried snacks, and even a bookshelf filled with old magazines and the odd cookbook.
Mel, the in-house cat, will keep you company you while you eat. There are also a few Italian dishes on the menu, but skip those and opt for the sorpotel (with chunky bits of pork) or sausage chilly fry mopped up with fresh pao. The prawn rava fry or calamari fry will satiate your seafood cravings.
Gables, Glamour Building, Colaba Causeway, Opposite Shiv Mandir, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. 092242 69773
Walking into Snowflake is like going back in time. Nostalgia oozes out of the marble topped tables, sepia-tinted photos stuffed in dusty shelves, and creaking fans. The day’s specials, a stock list of about 10 dishes, can be found scrawled on a whiteboard in the corner. The cats at the entrance all seem to embody the susegaad feeling of the place – you may sometimes feel like stretching yourself out and curling up into a ball after a good meal here. It is here that I find food that comes closest to what my mother prepares at home – offal laden sorpotel; the tangy fish curry, ambotik; tongue roast with browned onions and just a hint of gravy, and quite the best fish cutlets I’ve eaten in the city.
Snowflake Restaurant, 18, Ribeiro Building, Ground Floor, 1st Dhobitalao Lane, Mumbai 400 002.
Soul Fry is 20 years old and enjoys iconic status in Bandra, not the least for those weekly karaoke nights that, I’m told, also serve as good matchmaking venues! Festivities apart, Meldan D’Cunha, the affable owner the place, loves experimenting with food. This finds the form of lesser known Goan, East Indian, Koli, and Manglorean food. Here, the cafreal, prawn recheado, and sausage fry find place with the Portuguese-influenced crab xec xec, caldeirada (Portuguese fish stew) and Guisado De Galinha (chicken stew). These are best washed down with pints of beer for that perfect laidback vibe.
Soul Fry, Ground Floor, Silver Craft, Opposite Pali Sabji Market, Pali Mala Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2604 6892
Sandwiched between shops selling Keralite fare and kebabs in Mahim, Sushegad Gomantak isn’t easy on the eyes. What it lacks in appearance it makes up for with delicious food and warm service. The only wall décor here is a chart showcasing the fish in the Indian Ocean with their local names, a blown-up clipping of a newspaper article mentioning the place, and the day’s specials. There’s a menu of course, but everyone comes here for the fish – eaten fried or in a curry.
It is here that I always manage to find xinanio (mussels), best eaten fried and piping hot; kalwa (oysters), typically had in a thick curry; and muddoshi (lady fish), also eaten fried. The restaurant’s cooking style is Goan Hindu and is heavy on curries, many of which don’t feature coconut. The fried fish comes with a thick coating of rice flour and rava and isn’t oily. Other stand out dishes include prawn cutlets accompanied by a thin, green chutney; tisrya sukhe – shellfish served with a garam masala and coconut mixture; and a crab thali featuring one huge crab in a spicy red curry.
Sushegad Gomantak, Shop No. 1 – 11, Shiv Sagar Coperative Housing Society, Lady Jamshedji Road, Opposite Crown Bakery, Mahim (w), Mumbai 400 016. Phone: 022 2444 5555
New Martin Hotel
This iconic institution in Colaba is a simple, no-frills place. The formica topped tables, high seating, two blackboards announcing the day’s specials – the interiors may not have changed even if the owners did. “Goan meals served here” is proudly painted on the door shutters and on a small board hanging outside.
The hotel now has Manglorean owners, but the food is still Goan, heavy on the spices. The beef chilly fry is succulent and spicy, prawns pulao has golden long grained rice heaped over a masala prawns, and pork sorpotel is adequately greasy and flavourful. Their specialty is beef steak, cooked until tender and served with generous helpings of onions and potatoes. Here, just like at Udupi restaurants, you might have to sometimes share a table with strangers. There’s no need for conversation, everyone is too busy eating.
New Martin Hotel, 11, Glamour House, Strand Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2202 9606
A pelican with his catch of the day greets you at the entrance of Mahim icon Fresh Catch. It’s an indication that, if nothing else, you can get good fish here.
The interiors remind me of an old aunt’s home – patterned napkins, red checked tablecloths, black chairs, sepia-tinted photos on the wall, and music from the ’70s and ’80s. The service is warm and the food homely. Best known for its butter garlic crab, Fresh Catch also dishes up stellar bangda jeera meera, a spicy and tangy balchao, prawns sukka, and a wholesome seafood pulao filled with juicy prawns, crabmeat, and shellfish. The prices may be a tad expensive for Goan grub, but the food is delicious, which makes it worth it.
Fresh Catch, 144/C, Diamond Court Chawl, PN Kotnis Road, Mahim (w), Mumbai 400 016. Phone: 022 2444 8942
Mangoes, a rooftop restaurant in Orlem, gets its name from the fact that the owners are Goan and Manglorean (they serve both cuisines). The décor here is spartan with plastic chairs and tables. It doesn’t matter, because Mangoes serves some hearty Goan fare, largely focuses on non-vegetarian food. There’s both beef and pork roast – both of which are so popular, people freeze them and take them abroad; tongue jeere mere, caldin, the street staple rice omelette, cutlets, and potato chops.
Mangoes, 601, 6th floor, Almar Arcade, Near Punjab National Bank, Orlem, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. Phone: 022 2801 5552
The food here isn’t Goan the way I’ve grown up eating it, but it is delicious and inspired by Goan food, which makes for some interesting dishes. There’s rissois stuffed with crab (rather than prawns) and coated with Panko crumbs; kalchi koddi served as a sauce with boiled eggs, kismur with raw papaya and shrimp, red rice sannas, and serradurra with orange segments. There’s even a sourdough poee, best paired with chorizo butter. The best dish is the veal tongue prosciutto, a take on salted tongue with pickled cucumber and a garlic-mustard aioli.
The interiors – some call it granny chic – are filled with knick knacks and elements expected in an old house: cane backed chairs, hanging creepers, red tiles, and plates on the walls. A good place to hang out at is at the polished wooden bar, sipping on the homemade Vasco Sour with its hit of Goan toddy vinegar while tapping your feet to the music.
O Pedro, Unit No 2, Plot No C-68, Jet Airways – Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai 400 051. Phone: 022 2653 4700
- Feature photograph copyright manubahuguna – stock.adobe.com
- Snowflake photograph by Suruchi Maira
- Sushegad Gomanak photograph by Suruchi Maira
- Thali photograph by Praveen (originally posted to Flickr as Fish curry rice) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- O Pedro photograph courtesy O Pedro