All Things Mustard in India’s GOA!

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Seldom do I recommend an experience sans encounters of the empirical kind; much less if it involves unsuspecting taste-buds. But I had been hearing such wonderful things about this one the past year, I made a rider-hitched–the messenger requests that she please not be shot–exception for it. Then I sat back many months to await unbiased reviews from knowledgeable palates (not to mention the perfect season for a Goa visit) before I eventually showed up at the charming teal-and-white balcao of the century-old Portuguese villa that houses Mustard.

Besides, a couple of days into our trip and following an unimaginable indulgence of sea creaturesIMG_9266 in their Cafreal, Xacuti, and Recheado avatars, I was more than just willing to renege on a self-imposed traditional-food-only canon. In addition, an accompanying vegetarian friend needed desperate rescuing from an over-dose of Au Gratin (once, Paneer Butter Masala even) masquerading as a local delicacy. As it turned out, neither one of us could have hoped for a better palate-cleanser than the eponymous condiment and its innovative use at this dual-cuisine cafe.

IMG_8939Our attention that night was completely taken by the Bengali section of a menu that also hosts French fare. It’s a culinary marriage most interesting, convincingly held together by a long list of delectable wows. Mostly mild, some sweet, and a few unexpected scorchers! You should know though that not all dishes here are mustard-flavoured so there’s no danger of excess. For that, turn to their well-stocked bar.  I found whisky a good pairing for most of what we ordered as starters: spiced Beetroot Chops, Ghugni (yellow peas curry) with Dalpuri (lentil-stuffed bread), BBQ on Fritters.

The fritters were a fantastic burst of taste and texture with pineapple
cubes sandwiched between tiny corn pancakes and barbecued prawns with a tangy relish. The Mochar Ghonto (steamed banana blossoms) my friend ordered as a main came plated with rice, dal, a mustard-drizzled salad side, and sweet pineapple relish. It was quite superb I have to say, even if mellow in flavour. As was the Shorsher Ullash (mildly spiced pork cubes tossed in grainy mustard sauce) I was fast demolishing.  Dessert was a toss-up between Mishti Doi, Malpuas or a more spirited food-chaser. I chose the latter.

IMG_9271I returned for lunch a couple of days later, only to ensure that sense of content and well-being I doggy-bagged the other night was not a consequence of generous libations. It wasn’t. The piquant punch their Tentul Joler Sherbet (tamarind, mint, honey on ice) packed kept me sober right through the Chicken Blanquette a la Moutarde. The homey stewed chicken with rice was as close to comfort food as the India-seared French group on an adjoining table could possibly have wanted. Their sighs of contentment were as telling as my greedy shovelling.

Then along came the Creme Brulee; first bite later I thought I’d died and IMG_9277gone to foodie heaven. After crunching through a perfectly torched caramel crust to get to that creamy, perfectly sweetened custard heart. Enough said. Another sweet-treat on the menu is what at first glance appears to be a most unlikely match–Brownie or Carrot Cake with sweetened mustard sauce. You’re in for such a surprise, trust me. Complete the indelible experience by washing it all down with a freshly brewed cuppa in the delightfully green backyard where, come Wednesdays, a rather dishy Krishna Vamsee also sings.

In short, when in Goa, you must Mustard.

 

Puneet Sidhu
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, travel enthusiast and the author of Adrift: A junket junkie in Europe is the youngest of four siblings born into an aristocratic family of Punjab. Dogged in her resistance to conform, and with parental pressure easing sufficiently over the years, she had plenty of freedom of choice. And she chose travel.

She was born in Shimla, and spent her formative years at their home, Windsor Terrace, in Kasumpti while schooling at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Chelsea. The irrepressible wanderlust in her found her changing vocations midstream and she joined Singapore International Airlines to give wing to her passion. She has travelled extensively in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and SE Asia; simultaneously exploring the charms within India.

When she is not travelling, she is writing about it. Over the past decade or so, she has created an impressive writing repertoire for herself: as a columnist with Hindustan Times, as a book reviewer for The Tribune and as a contributor to travel magazines in India and overseas. Her work-in-progress, the documenting of colonial heritage along the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road, is an outcome of her long-standing romance with the Himalayas.
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