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Hilton Chennai culinary express `pantry car' offers Goan delicacies

IANS November 29, 2014 13:32 IST

Chennai: Hilton Chennai's Culinary Express now offers Goan delights like fish or paneer recheado, Goan curries (fish or prawn), moogachi gathi (green sprouts slow cooked with Goan spices) and others and the response is good, the hotel's top chef said.

"The dishes are made in home style and not in the typical restaurant style. The masala is made ready by chef Peter Pinto from Double Tree by Hilton Goa. In fact he has lugged quite a kg of ingredients from Goa," Yogendra Pal, executive chef at the Hilton Chennai, told IANS, offering the welcome drink made with Goan Kokum syrup.

While the waiters at the Ayna restaurant sport colourful Goan attire with hats, soft Goan music wafts within the four walls.

"Peter had brought some music CDs as were not able to find Goan music here," Pal remarked.

Meanwhile taster portions of appetiser platter arrived at the table with the dark reddish fish recheado (pan grilled fish with red chilli paste and Goan spices) beckoning one to eat it first.

Surrounding the fish recheado were sinquerim manki fry (deep fried squid with peri peri chillies), ashwem bhaijleli sungta (pan fried prawns with Goan salad) and chicken cafreal (chicken braised with fresh coriander, mint and green chillies).

First to roll inside the mouth was the juicy prawns that were mild and this was followed by the relatively spicy chicken cafreal.

However the hot and tasty squid activated the taste buds further to devour the yummy and spicy fish recheado.

On the vegetarian side, there is batata chi kappa (semolina rusted potato patties), paneer recheado (pan grilled cottage cheese marinated with red chilli paste and Goan spices) amd alami masala (rawa fried button mushroom).

Thirty-two year old Pinto who anchors the food festival with dishes largely influenced by the Portuguese, is one of the few chefs hailing from families that encouraged their wards to take to the kitchen as their profession.

"Many of my relatives are chefs in overseas hotels and cruise liners. Hearing about their overseas travels, I wanted to become a chef," Pinto told IANS.

His late mother and aunt ran a catering business in a Goan village.

Queried about how his professional education helped his family catering business Pinto said: "The menu card expanded with the addition of up-market appetizers like cheese balls, fish/chicken fingers and others which was different from competition."

However, instead of joining the mother's catering business Pinto decided to join the hotel line. His father is into selling building materials.

Meanwhile the main course Goan fish curry, bhaji foogath (vegetables stir fried with mustard and coconut)and naralachi varan (curried yellow lentil tempered with mustard and coconut) arrived at the table.

It is recommended to have the dishes with ukre (unpolished red Goan rice) as it tastes good and different than when it is taken with regular white rice.

While one was busy with the work - hand to mouth - Pinto said the trend in Goa among tourists is less spicy and oily food.

"We manage to serve them by finding substitute ingredients, vegetables that are less spicy - like using capsicum instead of usual chilli," Pinto said.

According to him Goa now receives greater number of Iranians as tourists.

It was now time to desert the main course plate and welcome the dessert plate.

For the sweet tooth, there is bibinca (traditional Goan pudding), dodol (made with coconut milk and coconut jaggery) and alebele (coconut filled pancake).

The vegetarian non-vegetarian set menus are priced at Rs.1,790 and Rs.2,200 per person respectively excluding taxes (without alcohol). The a la carte option would cost around Rs.3,000 for two persons excluding taxes.

The Goan culinary express will be halting at Ayna till Nov 30.