I have always been fascinated by Goan cuisine- it is strikingly similar to Konkani cuisine and influenced by its Hindu origins and centuries of Portuguese colonization. During my childhood days, one of dad’s friends- Lenny used to prepare amazing Pork Vindaloo and very soon dad used to replicate the dish on weekends. This was just one of the dishes I enjoyed eating; a couple of years later when I moved to the coastal city of Mangalore I was exposed to more prominent dishes from the famous Konkani cuisine. To name a few- Pork Sorpotel served with savoury rice cakes called Sanna, Dukra Maas (Pork Bafat) and Bangda (Mackerel fish) fry. Frankly, most of these dishes were prepared by my mother-in-law- she used to pack ample portions of these dishes and send it to me during Christmas when Herwin and myself were dating.
As I mentioned earlier, Goan cuisine can be broadly branched into Hindu and Catholic cuisine- based on the cooking style and ingredients used. In the Hindu cuisine, the ingredients used are predominantly vegetarian and is less oily whereas, the Catholic cuisine is a fusion of Indian and Portuguese cooking styles. Although I have visited Goa on numerous occasions, I have never made the effort to find out eateries that serve authentic Goan food. The ones that I know about are located on the beaches of Calangute, Baga and Candolim. Not taking any credit away from those eateries but, little did I know that I was actually missing out on something more delectable, more heavenly that cannot be explained in words-you had to taste it to believe it.
Herwin had not been to Goa (not since childhood) and so we decided to visit this tourist mecca of the West Coast to celebrate our second anniversary. Most of my holidays in Goa were spent either partying on the beaches of Anjuna, probably getting a massage at Calangute or eating my heart out at the shacks of Baga beach. Personally, to me Panjim was not as interesting as the beaches across the Mandovi bridge but the fact that there were countable restaurants serving authentic Goan cuisine only became apparent during my recent visit. All thanks to Vishal who recommended Viva Panjim-
Viva Panjim is the brainchild of Linda D’souza who has been featured in several food and travel magazines. Viva Panjim is located on a street vaguely behind the famous ‘Our Lady Of The Immaculate’ church. It can be difficult to spot this eatery which is housed in an old Portuguese home; especially now, when there are so-many diversions and one-way roads in that area. It could have been a lot easier if we tried locating this place in the morning compared to when we visited- in the night.
Viva Panjim is nestled in a quiet locality and the moment you walk-in to this street-side eatery you feel as if your warped into a different era. The interior décor and the ambience just screams of Portuguese influence. When you step-in- its the living room with about 3-4 tables and next to it is the cash-counter (this is the non-AC section). The interior décor of Viva Panjim sort of accelerates your appetite in some way and without further-ado, we ordered for some cocktails. I stuck to the regulars- a screwdriver and Herwin ordered, Goa with Love- which is Goan fenny with Pineapple juice; this concoction gives you a slight buzz.
Oh! I forgot to mention, recommend that you call in and make a reservation because this place does not have enough tables to cater to a large crowd and so it will be quite a wait for a table.
We ordered Prawns Masala Fry and Pork Pepper Roast and both the dishes were extremely delicious. The Pork Roast was undoubtedly the best of its kind that I have tasted in my life- all the flavors that you would come to expect from an authentic Goan recipe was there. The Prawns Masala Fry was no different- loved the slightly tangy taste in the masala which must be due to the vinegar. Even before we could complete the starters I went ahead with main course and what better than Goan Fish Curry Rice and Chicken Lollipop (ok, I know a weird combo- but who cares?). The Chicken Lollipop came with an orgasmic dip made from chilly and garlic. The Goan Fish curry was visually soo appealing- the bright orange colour was soo inviting. We opted for Prawns in the fish curry- the other options were Mackerel and King Fish. The fish curry was no doubt delicious but slightly more thinner compared to the ones that I have tried at other restaurants in Goa.
I couldn’t help myself- I had to meet Linda ma’am. I ate slowly, waiting for her to walk in. I remember speaking to her a couple of hours ago to make a reservation and she was soo sweet and nice. The moment she walked in, I quickly went up to her desk her and started rambling about the food like a toddler had just been given a gift for Christmas. She was soo happy to hear about the food and she talked about Viva- the story behind it, her idea of Goan cuisine and how she would not pay a penny for advertising and that word-of-mouth means a lot than advertisements. It was a moment to cherish listening to a lady who was soo down-to-earth, kind and the passion for food knew no bounds.
I cannot contain the excitement from the experience I had and I wonder why did I not visit this place earlier. I am going to do my part to ensure every foodie I know gets to taste the food served here. Viva Panjim surely has taken Goan cuisine to the next level and above all through the experiences of the many tourists- to the world.
Gulp ‘n’ Munch recommends Viva Panjim, You Gotta Eat Here!
House # 178, Rua 31 de Janeiro
Behind Mary Immaculate High School