Warm Beaches, Hot Food: Eating in Goa

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Kendra P. continues our eating around the world series with news of food from the Goan Peninsula.

Situated on the west coast of India and lapped by the waters of the Indian Ocean, Goa is perhaps best known for its inviting palm-fringed beaches and many luxury resorts. However, it’s also a paradise for food lovers, offering an astonishing variety of delectable, fiery local dishes that titillate the palate and make you regret when it’s time to leave.

The history of Goa has left its indelible mark on the local cuisine. Goa is an ancient place, with the earliest traces of human habitation dating back nearly 30,000 years. The Sumerians came to Goa in 2200 BC, followed by Dravidians from the Deccan Plateau. Many other peoples came to Goa over the following centuries, and by the 14th century, it had come under the control of the sultans of Delhi. By 1510, Goa was under Portuguese rule—and continued to be so until 1961.

The Portuguese presence gave rise to one of the best-known dishes from the region: vindaloo. The name is actually derived from that of a Portuguese dish, carne de vinha d’alhos, which is pork prepared with wine and garlic. In Goa, the recipe was modified by replacing red wine with palm vinegar, and adding Kashmiri chilies and other spices. Interestingly enough, the fiery dish also became a staple of Anglo-Indian cuisine, although the variety you can find in UK curry houses today is substantially different from the original. One thing you will often find in a Western vindaloo is potato, which you would never find in Goa. This is due to a misinterpretation of the name—aloo means potato in Hindi.

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Carrot Surprise

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When the temperature hit 90 degrees here in DC last week, it was clear that time for spring planting was upon us.  Mercifully, this week has brought some slightly cooler weather, but it seems that the time of hard frost has passed, and I am itching for some home-grown arugula.  With lots of “help” from my two-year-old, I began pulling up the weeds from our two raised-bed gardens and in addition to foot-deep dandelion roots, we unearthed-surprise!-some carrots.  Ah yes, I do seem to remember planting those at some point last year.

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Some of the carrots were clearly past their prime, but a handful were still surprisingly orange and crunchy.   I knew that these semi-miraculous winter survivors deserved some special treatment, so I decided to make a carrot-cashew salad that I had enjoyed at book club a few weeks before.  I even went so far as to (gasp) purchase some ingredients specifically for the recipe.  Served over curried chickpeas and rice, this little salad was the perfect inauguration to a summer of homegrown produce.

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Shredded Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad

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This One’s for the Ladies (at Least in My House)

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My husband is about the most un-picky eater I know.  While I happily eat down the fridge with alarming regularity (seriously, that and my, um, screw-ups are basically all I write about around here), he has truly mastered the art of eating what’s on hand. No croutons for the salad? Crushed up off-brand-Ritz will work just fine. All out of good cheese? Toss him a well-aged Kraft Single. In five years of marriage, he has enjoyed and endured my culinary successes and failures with an abundance of grace.

So, on the rare occasion that he expresses distaste for a certain food, I typically have no qualms about taking it out of rotation. Usually.

But then, a month or so ago, I made this cauliflower curry and I knew as soon as I tasted it that I had a winner.  Something about the combo of coconut oil (not milk, like my usual curries) and red curry paste and cauliflower just worked. I loved it. After dinner that night, though, the pronouncement came. “You know, this wasn’t bad.  But, well, cauliflower, it’s just not my favorite.” In husband-speak, “not my favorite” is the kiss of death to a dish.  I was sad.

This story has happy ending, though.  In the following weeks, I looked for any opportunity to make my new favorite dish for others. Fortunately, not all my friends feel as negatively toward cauliflower as that BFF who shares my bed.  My vegan friend Katie appreciated the animal-free heartiness.  My friend Kate (yes, all my friends really have the same name) declared it delicious, spicy but not too spicy, after warning me that she probably wouldn’t like it because she doesn’t like a lot of things.  It’s my new go-to for any night my darling cauliflower-hater has to work late or is otherwise indisposed at the dinner hour, and I don’t have to feel guilty for making his favorite on a night he’s not home.

Oh, and just case you were wondering, what culinary delicacy does he and my son turn to when I am not home for dinner?  Why, frozen pizza, of course.  Or, if that’s not available, maybe some Ritz crackers with Kraft singles.

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Endless Road Trip Seattle: Curry to Thai for

I’ve saved the best for last. The best thing I miss about Seattle, the best restaurant memories from my years of college in the University District, the best Thai food I’ve ever had. Yes, I’m that passionate about it. Thai Tom is my favorite restaurant in Seattle even though it’s a cash-only hole-in-the-wall with hit-or-miss service, multiple health department warnings, an undeniably intense spice level, legions of whiny Yelp detractors, and often a long wait on the dirty sidewalk of the Ave.

It’s fine, I’ll call out all those detriments. I challenge you to take one bite of Thai Tom’s curry and disagree with my ardent assessment of their amazing food. After your wait, after cramming into a wobbly wooden table or a crowded corner spot in front of the open-kitchen wok, after agonizing over which dish to order off their hand-painted wooden panel menus, after hungrily watching the sweaty chefs pouring piping-hot, incredibly fresh sauces over snowy balls of rice in glass troughs and praying that order is yours… once you’re endured that, the first bite (and every subsequent bite) is worth enduring the Thai Tom process. The food is heaven.

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The Endless Road Trip: Not All That’s Euro is Trash

Portland is known for its incredibly diverse food cart scene, with over 700 of them clustered around town in various Food Pods. As I browsed one of the larger pods downtown, Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland (the definitive expert on Portland street food) strongly recommended one called Eurotrash. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice based on the name, I had to give the inventive menu—Portugese-influenced with pan-Euro touches, a hint of Indian spice, and a generous helping of good old fashioned American gluttony—a chance.

And glad I did. Above: “chorizo and chips,” a serving of thinly-sliced, golden-brown fried potatoes mixed with slivers of grilled chroizo, cilantro and a creamy curry aioli. Yep—potatoes, curry and pig—all that’s good about food in one bite. Alternatively, they’ll top your chips with a heaping serving of foie.

More after the jump.

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Indian Eggplant Parm

Editor’s Note: New contributor Prof. Fusion, an English professor, kitchen dabbler and Dora the Explorer antagonistjoins ES with pretty much our favorite thing…a new sandwich!

This is basically your classic Italian eggplant parm sub, gone Indian—although there’s no Parmesan inhabitant on this blissfully delicious breaded island, just Provolone. The inspiration behind the Indian eggplant sub spawned from  the Food in My Beard’s chicken crispy masala. When I first made this, I made a few adjustments to Dan’s amazing recipe (i.e. how I breaded and fried the chicken—dusted with salt and curry powder), and this salaciously cheesy dish quickly became my wife’s favorite dinner option. One night, I planned to do the same thing to eggplant, when my food muse spoke to me in a garlic-infused whisper, “Why not make this into a sub?!”  And there’s our causal chain, people.

Note: if you’re not a big fan of eggplant (my pal Russ hates its texture, whereas Caitlin finds it tolerable—she’s far too polite), then use chicken instead. I really dig the fusion of Indian/Italian flavors; these yield great pairings when using Indian spices instead of Italian ones.  And what can honestly go wrong when there’s tomato sauce and cheese involved?

Indian Eggplant Parm

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Endless Ice Cream: Coconut Curry Chocolate Chip

If you’re thinking that this is an ugly ice cream, you are right. The picture doesn’t even begin to do justice to the weird, neon yellow color of this ice cream. But what it lacks in looks it makes up for in taste. The depth of toasty goodness will keep you spooning more and more into your face. The toasted coconut hits you first, followed by the mellow, smooth, warm curry. The chocolate chips add little bursts of sweetness to offset the spice of the curry. For all of you adventurous curry lovers out there—this one’s for you.

Coconut Curry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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