Life in Goa: The Taste of Goa

By Cedric Serpes


Aunty Rosie’s great-grandmother was Goan. So is Aunty Rosie. She lives in a sprawling Portuguese bungalow that overlooks a stream. She has seven rooms in all. She is 70 and sleeps in different rooms each night. Why? She says that rooms are like children. They feel neglected if they are ignored. Why? Listen, you don’t get to ask questions here. So let me get to the point. Aunt Rosie is a fabulous “cooker” as she calls herself. And she has garnered so much of information, recipes, tips and wisdom on life that talking to her is like getting hit with a 120 GB hard drive. A casual mention about fish elicited this fabulous recipe handed down by word of mouth. Here it is verbatim. Be patient and pay attention. Because Aunty Rosie tends to wander around the many spare rooms in her head. But she always returns to the recipe. For your convenience I have kept the wandering in italics. In her words:

Prawn Guisado

• You will need 500 grams of medium sized prawns. Remember to de-vein the prawns or you can end up with a bad stomach upset. Remove the heads and boil separately and decant the soup to be used in your final dish.

(But don’t worry if you get a stomach upset from the prawns, just mix a little common salt with pure sour lime juice and drink it at one go. Repeat after 2 hours if the runs continue.)

• 8 to 10 seeds of garlic; 2 large onions; 2 large tomatoes;

(That reminds me, should you stain your clothes, scrub with an aspirin tablet made into a fine paste. If that does not work, place a blotting paper under the stain and sprinkle talcum powder over it and run a hot iron over it.)

• 1 small teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoonful of coriander powder and 2 teaspoon pepper seeds crushed into a coarse powder. And yes, a curry spoonful of cooking oil. The juice of 1 small sour lime. A pinch of sugar. And salt to taste.

(Ah, but make sure you get good quality ingredients from a reputed company. Or else you will not only spoil your cooking but poison your body.)

• Chop onion fine.

• Crush garlic seeds, (never chop garlic. Crushing releases the oil that gives it its flavor.)

• Heat the oil and toss in the onions first. After it turns brown add a little water and simmer for 10 minutes.

• Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric, coriander and pepper and simmer, adding sprinkled water from time to time. After the contents have formed a pleasing mass and the oil separates, add the garlic and the cleaned prawns. Cover with a lid and let it simmer only for 5 minutes. Then shut off the heat, add the juice of the sour lime and the sugar, stir and let it stand.

• Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.

“Sounds like a tasty meal,” I said holding back the saliva. “Oh, but you can replace the prawns with any shell fish,” she added quickly, adding that shell fish can be coaxed to open by deep freezing them for about an hour. That way they die without trauma and taste better! I left Aunty Rosie a wiser man that day. She also told me how to reduce plump hips, how to increase the bust line (not mine), how to cure a scorpion bite, milk a goat and lastly how to treat hemorrhoids. I can quite safely say that I feel quite ready to face life with a whole new perspective.

Cedric Serpes would like to inform you that his bulbul is currently not on talking terms with him. The bird firmly believes that Cedric speaks badly of him behind his back and has been stealing his bird seed.

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