This chef is on a quest to trace the subtle nuances of Goan cookery from the colonial era
For connoisseurs, authenticity is of paramount importance when it comes to food. This is why chef Gracian de Souza refused to serve me most of the dishes listed on his menu. “If I serve you a duck vindalho without using toddy vinegar or seafood soup sans Goan piri piri, I won’t be able to sleep well tonight. We’re still days away from the event and many of my essential ingredients are still stuck in transit,” explains Gracian, apologetically.
Currently, he’s helming the kitchens inside Fort Kochi’s first boutique heritage hotel, The Malabar House, prepping for a culinary pop-up. The 40-year-old—who honed his craft by working at Harvey Nichols (London), InterContinental Marine Drive, and so on—is on a quest to trace the subtle nuances of Goan cookery from the colonial era.
The former owner of Porto & Poie loves incorporating regional ingredients into his spread: think pineapple curry served with matta rice and desserts including serradura created with fresh passion fruit-almond Florentine. His core philosophy is simple: apply the nouvelle techniques acquired after working for nearly two decades in the global industry to cook modern Goan fare.
“Kochi was ruled by the Portuguese for over 160 years. They are sure to have impacted the food culture here, especially with regards to the local produce. Some food historians claim that even chilli was introduced by them,” states chef Gracian, serving me the only two dishes from his temporary a la carte menu which were available at the time.
The starter, which arrives in the form of tempura fried green beans with piri piri butter, isn’t anything to write home about. However, his take on a smoky Goan chouriço ragoût served on an orange bed of scrambled duck eggs, with a dollop of cream cheese on top, is delightful. Especially, when the spicy pork sausage is paired with a fluffy hopper.
“I’ve been travelling around the planet, stopping over at cities where the European colonisers were posted. I plan to continue honing my authentic Goan-Portuguese recipes with stops in Macau and Hong Kong next,” concludes Gracian, who dreams of opening a standalone Goan eatery in Lisbon.
Lunch and dinner service till March 31.
At The Malabar House.