Following the success of his recent videos on YouTube, we caught up with our Indian chef, Santan, to talk about his passion for traditional Indian cuisine and how his upbringing in Goa, has shaped his cooking over the years.
If you haven’t watched his videos yet, be sure to check them out below; he makes a delicious vegan palak paneer, as well as three vibrant Indian curry sauces, both of which are sure to tickle your taste buds.
So, without further ado, let’s hand it over to Santan, to find out more about life by the beach in Goa and how food is a massive part of the culture there. Cheers Santan!
My first memory of cooking was when I was eight. I used to get up early to help my mother in the mornings. She was pregnant with my younger sister at the time, and I would help her to make tea and wash the utensils for the day ahead. I learnt how to cook rice. I watched her make it once, and then I had to make it myself. I was a fast learner.
My family are from Arambol, a town by the beach in Goa, and my father opened a restaurant there when I was a child. It is located on the beach and is still there, 26 years later. It’s called Santana and my brother now runs it.
Everything I know about being a chef comes from my father. My mother is a great cook, and when it comes to all the local, traditional dishes, no one makes them better than her, but my father was the chef of the family and he would create lots of dishes for the restaurant.
When I was twelve, my father saw that I had an interest in food and cooking, so I began to help him in the restaurant. By the time I was fifteen, I was working as a chef there and I was confident cooking many different dishes.
Over the years, I took many cooking courses and worked on and off in the restaurant- at one point, I was working as both the waiter and the chef there! They were busy times but I enjoyed them.
Food is really important to the people in Goa. Most of the people there like spicy food, and fish and vegetarian dishes are very popular. My family get locally grown, organic vegetables every day and they buy them, not in the market, but from the vendors that walk the streets balancing big baskets of fresh produce on their heads; that is how you get the best quality vegetables.
There are some delicious Goan vegetarian dishes. A popular dish is a potato curry, which is a curry with a tomato and vegetable base, that is topped with dried potatoes. That is one of the dishes I really miss about home! We also make a lovely dish by cooking jackfruit seeds and chopping them up. It’s really tasty.
The coconut is a such a big part of both food and life in Goa and every single part of the plant is used, from the root to the fruit. The bark of the tree is used for making furniture, the branches are used for making sweeping brushes and the leaves are used for making roofs and shelter. The outer layer of the coconut shells are put in the sea to soak for a few weeks, then taken out and made into a strong rope, and of course, the coconut itself is used in cooking, while the water makes a refreshing drink.
Things have changed in Goa from when I was growing up. For example, when I was a child, everyone did all their cooking on an open fire.We would collect wood from the jungle and cook our food over an open fire, and the taste was always the best. Nowadays, it is more modern and people cook using gas.
In those days, it was mainly girls who learnt how to cook, and not the boys, as the girls would be the ones helping their mother in the kitchen. I was the only one out of my friends who knew how to cook! Nowadays, the men also know how to cook and many men go to college to become chefs.
If I had one tip to share, I would say that, when it comes to making the perfect rice, make sure to know what rice you are using, as each type of rice takes a different amount of time to cook. Short grain rice takes a long time, while white rice is very fast. You want to make sure you put just the right amount of water on your rice too. Usually it is two parts water to one part rice.
Thanks so much to Santan! We hope you found this insight into life on the beach in Goa as fascinating as we did! We are so pleased to have Santan share his knowledge with us in the videos below. These dishes are guaranteed to transport you to your own tropical Goan beach! We highly recommend you giving them a try – let us know how you get on!