Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Viva Viva Panjim!
When it’s dinner time, one of the best restaurants to get the Goan experience is the heritage home of Linda Aunty. Linda D’Souza is the proprietor of Viva Panjim, behind the Mary Immaculate School, on 31st January Road. Its slightly off the road, a small lane off 31st January Road takes you to the cheery venue. A board on the main road will help you find your way. Linda Aunty is always smiling, and the waiters are always helpful. The service can sometimes be painfully slow, but if you’re in a hurry, there’s no point going there anyway. Avoid sitting in the AC room, the best place to sit is outside, under the stars. Order your drink, ask what’s the catch of the day and order it rava fried. Ask the waiter for a bowl of red chutney on the side, which is the rechado masala paste (pronounced reshaad). Rechado masala can also be smeared on your fish and then fried, which is also good, but I tend to think it ruins the taste of the fish. If you want to try rechado fry, ask for mackerels rechado. Mackerels, being oily fish, have a bit of an odour of their own which is masked quite well with the masala. If you aren’t used to eating fish, however, be wary about the mackerel because it’s a bit of an acquired taste.
When I’m at Viva Panjim, there’s nothing I like better than a vodka lime cordial and some fresh red snapper (tamuso) rava fried. You can also have the calamari (squid), white snapper (morso) and crabs. Fried crabs always seem to absorb too much oil and so I’m not a big fan. I prefer crab masala in a thick coconut-onion gravy.
This is usually enough for me, but if you want the whole hog, as a main course the Chicken Xacuti (pronounced Shakoothi) is spicy and delicious. Xacuti is the most popular of Goan gravies – roasted onion and coconut is pasted along with a generous helping of garlic, cloves, peppercorns and coriander seeds. The meat is then cooked in the paste – upon cooking, the paste becomes a darkish brown and acquires a thick, creamy texture on account of the coconut. Xacuti is made with Chicken, Mutton and in its vegetarian avatar with kabuli chana, masoor, or (my favourite) monsoon mushrooms (almi) is called Thonak. The best accompaniment to Xacuti is Unno or Pao, which are brought piping hot to your table at Viva Panjim, almost straight out of the oven. The meat doesn’t seem to have been cooked in the Xacuti paste and that’s my only grouse against it, really.
For the people with cast iron stomachs, you can try a Vindaloo. Vindaloo is traditionally made from a paste of red chilies and vinegar – the red chilies are set to soak in the vinegar overnight and are then pasted on a stone. Spicy is an understatement. Ask for less gravy because there’s no way you’re going to eat that spice paste anyway. Vindaloo is best had with rice and lots and lots of water.
There’s never any rush at Viva Panjim, it opens real early (about 6pm) for dinner and it’s a great place to chatter away with old friends or sip a beer while reading a book.