it was never enough. Nana and my aunts
were in the kitchen all morning. There
were no shortcuts. Nana grated coconuts
and ground her own masalas on a stone
grinder. She fried fresh fish daily and
cooked unpolished brown rice. She
cooked with firewood in red clay pots
and used handmade ladles from dried
coconut shells. After cooking lunch, she
would work on a snack for tea. Some of
her delicious treats were banana fritters
(filos), letri (coconut sweet), dos bahji
(made from lentils and cane sugar, which
is called jaggery), pinag (made from
rice flour and jaggery), alle belle (crepes
stuffed with sweetened coconut) and
even the laborious and delicious bebinca
(a layered cake made with fresh coconut
milk, jaggery, eggs and flour).
Most evenings we relished Nana’s
rendition of caldo verde made with
potatoes and spinach from her backyard.
As I grew older, I spent more time with
Nana in the kitchen. Sadly, she never
documented any of her recipes. Every
ingredient was an approximate weight.
The best way to learn was to watch her.
She always said, “Never serve food
I would return home from vacation and
eagerly try Nana’s recipes. They never
tasted quite the same. When I asked, her
reply was always, “It is the well water or
probably the clay pots,” but I sincerely
think it was the love and care that she
put into every meal she cooked. She
exemplified Goan hospitality with her
warmth for family and guests, excellent
cooking skills and her eye for details.
Since moving to the U.S., I have been on
a mission to recreate Goan food. Today,
all I rely on are memories of my time
spent in the kitchen with Nana and the
distinct taste of her mouthwatering food.
I have since been able to test and
substitute with Mexican chilies and local
ingredients and have also been able to
simplify some of her tedious methods,
shortening the preparation time.
Nana will be 86 this year. She does not
cook anymore, but continues to share
her recipes to the best of her memory.
top: Beach shack in Goa
Photo by Randolph Correia
Photo by Kyra Pais