I am not going to do this post, this place, this experience justice in my writing. But I will still try.
Under the Nerul bridge in the Bardez district is a small, unpaved road that rolls down and loops around dead-ending into this amazing little restaurant, Amigos. Across from mangroves and right at the Sinquerim river’s edge (umm, not the easiest to find), arriving there gives you the feeling that you’ve happened upon a little slice of sublime privacy, cut off from the rest of the world. The restaurant is family run, helmed by Chef Sabitha, the matriarch of the family, and represents Goan home cooking at its finest.
This was to be the first (and best!) of a few restaurant experiences I planned during my trip. I arrived the first day excited to see what culinary delights were in store for me. I overzealously brought a chef’s coat and shoes, while the guys in flip flops and loose t-shirts expertly crumb-frying looked at me a bit skeptically. But then…the power went out! Day 1 was foiled.
I came back a few days later (more casually dressed mind you) and spent the day delving into Goan cuisine. Sabitha and I became fast friends, and I found myself somewhere between guest chef and guest – her tying my apron on me as I’m triple-washing the greens and tea breaks to chat about her daughter’s desire to travel the world.
With 18 years of running this restaurant under her belt, Sabitha is fastidious, focused on the quality of her masalas and the freshness of the ingredients. All of the recipes are her own – no training or cookbooks could teach her what she knows. Her palate is expert, so that even when I came back to teach her a few dishes (my favorite part of the trip), she could identify when the spiced pumpkin soup needed more acidity or how much sweetness should be in the dark chocolate pudding we made. And her speed? Let’s just say working quickly because you never know when there’s going to be a power outage makes you lightning fast…
The fish recheado is judiciously made – tangy, spicy and sweet. Recheado really means stuffed, and it’s a vestige of Portuguese culture. The whole fish is split open and stuffed with a deep, red masala that includes kashmiri chilies, sometimes onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and vinegar. I loved it rava-fried; in Goa, they use semolina instead of bread crumbs to fry, and it’s delicious.
Amigos is well-known for its fish, which is brought in fresh daily. I know first-hand – a flapping fish unnerved me more than once when I was chopping… And the crab masala is to die for! You have to call ahead or stop by and give them notice a day or two in advance. You will then have some of the most delicious crab you’ve ever eaten.
This is a must if you are in Goa. It’s where the locals go to get amazingly high quality, casual home cooking. Gazing at the river, with an ice-cold shandy, and a plate of rava prawns…it doesn’t get much better. I’m a huge fan of Sabitha, so please say hello for me if you do happen to make it there.
Tel: +91 832 2301123
Below Nerul Bridge, Nerul, Bardez-Goa