When my wife picked Goa as the vacation destination for this summer, a Garfield style smile popped up unknowingly on my face. This was the smile of a foodie for whom Goa reminded him of one and only one specific taste – a taste that had withstood the test of time, a taste that had lingered on for more than 13 years. That taste, my friends, was that of a dish called Chicken Xacuti I had from a restaurant called Mum’s Kitchen in Panaji.
Let me take you back 13 years. It was sometime in July, the wettest season along the coast when my friend and I decided to drive down to Goa. It was a totally unplanned trip – no hotel bookings, no route maps, no nothing. Just the car (Maruti Zen), us, and the long, wet highway from Mangalore to Goa. We reached Goa around the morning and checked into one of Goa Tourism’s hotels in Panjim (near Miramar beach). After a short rest, we walked down the road searching for lunch and landed up at Mum’s Kitchen. I do not remember all the dishes we’d ordered, but I remember the Chicken Xacuti that I’d ordered very clearly. The taste was new to me, and maybe the exhaustion from all the driving swelled my appetite. Whatever it was, the taste found its way to that area of my brain where only remarkable memories were stored.
Cut to today: The prospect of reliving this memory excited me so much that everything else exciting about Goa came second. This time we stayed at a hotel in Dona Paula called L’Hotel Eden – a clean, budget hotel in the quietest of locations. The pool was small and just about 4.2 ft deep – this meant I could leave my 10-year-old in the pool without too much supervision.
Getting back to Mum’s Kitchen – we went there for dinner one of the days – I was really excited about getting into the hotel. I did not remember the ambience a great deal, so I couldn’t compare notes from my memory archives related to the ambience. But I felt poshness and sophistication standing out much more than the rustic charm of the traditional Goan setting – which was disappointing for me. Well, I hoped the food wouldn’t be so commercialized. I ordered the same dish I’d ordered 13 years ago – Chicken Xacuti and King Fish curry. The portions were huge – each of those dishes could be shared by 3 (regular) people. I tucked in, and to my dismay, the Xacuti didn’t taste any special anymore. It is probably not that Mum’s Kitchen had gone down in their quality – it could be a combination of a lot of factors: I didn’t have a great appetite that day, I had tasted many more special dishes and been to many similar places since my first visit to Mum’s Kitchen – and a variety of other factors. Whatever it was, I didn’t feel that special zing I had felt on my first visit to Mum’s Kitchen. I probably will never go in there in my life again – for me, it had become just another expensive tourist location than a place where I would get the real traditional Goan experience. Some memories are best left alone – Had I not done this visit, Mum’s Kitchen and its food would have remained a special memory for me for life. Too bad.
Well, my Goan trip wasn’t only about Mum’s Kitchen. Here are the places we visited:
– Old Goa (The churches)
– Sahakari Spice plantation, and lunch there (Rs 400 per head for plantation visit and lunch)
– Calangute Beach
– Fort Aguada
– Panjim Market
– Baga Beach
– Arpora Saturday Night Market (Terrific sights, smell, sounds, tastes. But not a flea market, I tell ya – stuff is expensive.)
Leaving you with some images from my trip. Tell me about your Goa experience, no?