For many people, Goa is India. White sandy beaches lined with palm trees. Relaxing by the sea at one of the small beach shacks. Ordering the fried fish and marveling at how anything so tasty could have been cooked in the back of hut made out of palm leaves. The food on the beaches of Goa is unmissable and I honestly can’t work out how they manage to cram Michelin star dishes into the back of those little shacks.
When the Hyatt Regency in Chennai invited me to come and try their new Goan food festival, my mind went back to our trips to Goa. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out some of the famous sea food here in Chennai. To keep things authentic, the Hyatt has brought down Goan chef, Vithal Naik, from their Hyatt Grand property in Goa. The chef lives, breathes and dreams about Goan food so it’s about as authentic you can get without sitting on the palm beaches, enjoying a Kingfisher and fried fish.
The Goan vibe is immediately apparent from the moment you step into the Spice Haat restaurant. All the staff are dressed in colourful shirts – I don’t remember seeing them in Goa, but it adds to the beach atmosphere!
In addition to the authentic food and dressed up staff, they have brought in a flea market manned by a charity called RASA that works with mentally and physically disabled people in Goa. All the traditional items have been made by people that are being helped by the charity.
To kick things off, two live counters provided two traditional Goan street food items. The first is an omelette with a chicken gravy (curry). The second is fried vegetable cutlets in a soft white bun called a pav. (Pavs are bread rolls, popularly used in the Mumbai street food dish, pav bhaji. Originally meant as a cheap way for labourers to satiate their hunger, pav bhajis are now a trendy street food served even in five star hotels).
Also to whet your appetite are light and crispy prawn cutlets (which I must admit, I mistook for potato wedges and nearly offered them to my vegetarian wife!). With a diced prawn filling, it’s rolled in flour and then lightly fried. It creates a delightful crunch as you bite into it. Don’t eat too many though because there are plenty of other dishes yet to try!
Casting my mind back to the fried pomfret that I had on the beaches of Calangute, I couldn’t wait to try the Goan sea food the chef had rustled up at the Hyatt. There are three sea food options: squid, kingfish, ladyfish and sardines. You select which ones you want and the chefs grill them to the way you want, right in front of you.
(The red sauce in the picture above is Kashmiri chili. Unfortunately peri-peri sauce isn’t readily available in India, but this is a good substitute).
Are you feeling full yet? Things have only just got started 🙂 Up next is the main courses. A whole variety of traditional Goan gravies (that’s curries to you and me) are on offer. You can choose from:
- Mooli ki Bhaji – dry gravy made from radishes
- Vegetable Katkhate – a mixed vegetable curry
- Suran Caldien – yam curry cooked in coconut and poppy seeds
- Alambi Kaju Masala – mushroom curry cooked in cashew and coconuts
- Dal Toi – a yellow dal
- Goan fish curry cooked in a kokum gravy
- Chicken Xacuti cooked in a spicy coconut gravy
I tried the veg katkhate which was very tasty! The Goan fish curry and chicken xacuti are not something I’ve tried before but both were excellent – although if you don’t like your meat to be on the bone, you might struggle with the chicken xacuti. Don’t forget to add a few naans on the side to eat it all with!
And finally, the dish I had been waiting for. The Goan chorizo pulao. Burnt sausage in a rice that’s been cooked in spices. The aroma wafts around you as you approach. Combined with the prawn sauce, I managed to find space for seconds even after everything else that I had eaten.
Finally we have the Goan dessert counter. As with many Indian sweets, ghee, flour and sugar is used to make most of the desserts. I particularly liked the bebinca (ghee based) and dodol (coconut milk and sweetened with jaggery.
About the Goan Food Festival
The food festival is on for the remainder of the week until 23rd July. Reservation is recommended because the restaurant is very popular and fills up quickly even on week nights.
HYATT REGENCY CHENNAI
365 Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600018, India
Tel: +91 44 61001234
Mob: +91 9176633310