CHENNAI: Chef Sarita Ajit Chavan deveins fresh pieces of prawn and sautés them in a pan with spicy and tangy tomato chilli sauce. She’s preparing prawn balchao, a fiery Goan delight that’s close to her heart. This heady aroma from the kitchen instantly transports us to the breezy beaches of Goa. Amid sizzling and crackling sounds and the aroma of meat being cooked, we catch up with the chef who is in the city for a Goan Food Festival by The Residency Towers.
Supervising the chefs in the kitchen, Sarita, who did her first food festival in the country with the same hotel, in 2014, says, “I always have three things in my travel bag — toddy vinegar for the tang, recheado masala made of red Kashmiri chilli and cafreal masala made of green chillies and coriander base. Some ingredients are brought from our coast to retain the authenticity in our delicacies. We get excellent crabs, fish and prawn from Chennai — that’s something I love about the city. It’s also why coastal cuisine is popular among patrons here.”
A humble and hearty meal
The Goan chef accompanied by her companion Olivia D’souza has curated around 50 specialties from Goa for the festival. From pork vindaloo to nistyachi kodi, expect every Goan dish here. The duo has tried to include a touch of diversity into every dish by infusing different methods of preparation from different communities. “Each Goan community follows a method of preparation. Even when a spice or two differ, it’s evident in the taste. I’ve prepared the dishes in Catholic style that’s commonly available in all the Goan restaurants,” shares the self-trained home chef. She has been living in Goa for the past 40 years. Her culinary journey began in 1994. Chavan has been honoured multiple times by the government of Goa for her expertise in the field and for the upliftment of women through social service.
A life full of spices
Sarita learned to make prawn curry — one of her signature dishes from her mother-in-law. “I do sustainable cooking. Everything is prepared at home from scratch and that’s the secret behind our healthy lifestyle. Fish curry rice is a staple at every household. I make a Maharashtrian version of dry fish fry. We have it with rice and dal. Despite eating Goan cuisine for so long, my favourite continues to be a simple Puneri thali. That’s my comfort food,” says Sarita.
The chef’s enthusiasm and experience with the cuisine reflect in the details of her aesthetic food presentation. The much-awaited crispy pomfret fish is served as an appetiser. This seafood delight is sliced into layers and stuffed with a quintessential Goan spice paste. The marination is sour yet slightly sweet. As we soak in the lightness of the fish meat, we take soft bites of roti with a yellow prawn curry. The gravy is light and has a fine consistency. We move on to one of their staples — rice served with chicken xacuti. The green curry is fiery and loaded with flavour. The meat is succulent and cooked to perfection. We wrap up our not-so-heavy meal with a lemon cooler. The tang and zesty flavours of the recipes linger much after the meal has been devoured.Priced at Rs 1,500 per person. The Goan Food Festival at The Residency Towers will conclude on September 15.
For details, call: 28156363