Chef, model, author, TV host, restaurateur – the list of Sarah Todd’s titles is pretty long. Although she’s constantly on the go, taking on new projects and hustling between cities and countries, there is one place the Australian also calls home – Goa. And, let’s just say, she knows a good fish thali when she see one!
AS TOLD TO AURELIA FERNANDES
PHOTOGRAPHS: MEETESH TANEJA
WHEN it came to starting my culinary journey in India, Goa seemed like the best entry point. Coming from Australia, I’m not used to large crowds and, the first time I stepped into Delhi, it was a sensory overload. It was the same story in Mumbai. Goa, however, reminded me of Queensland, the place I call home, thanks to the tropical weather, the seafood and, of course, the coast. Moving to a different part of the world can be overwhelming, but Goa’s calmness allowed me to nurture my creativity and, before I knew it, I realised I worked best in Goa. It’s quite ironic; people come to Goa to relax, I come here to work. I can get so much done when I’m here. It wasn’t always easy though: the first year was quite hard, I had to focus on getting a handle on everything. Now, it feels like I was meant to be here. As random as my life has been, Goa and I were meant to be, right down to the food. Experiencing Goan cuisine was a revelation, because its flavours are nothing like in the rest of India. It’s lighter when it comes to spices and it relies heavily on seafood, which is just right up my alley!
Bhatti Village Bar and Restaurant
Patrick, the owner, is the star at Bhatti Village. I love coming here because the food is good and he’s a riot. I often bring people here, and the first thing he’ll do is usher us to our seats and tell us exactly what we’re going to eat – before we even look at the menu! I try to interject, but he’ll brush it off and decide our meal for us. And he nails our order everytime. That’s because Patrick goes to the market himself and picks up the freshest fish he can find. While he manages the front of the restaurant, his wife is in the kitchen, preparing something local and amazing with the day’s catch. They’re a duo that truly works well together. And, I have to say, as a chef, it’s nice to enter a restaurant and have all the decisions made for you! Bhatti Village prides itself on serving authentic Goan food. I particularly love the clams (price on request) and poi. I can wipe a plate of clams clean, all thanks to the masala and the coconut, which gives it a lovely crunch and texture. The restaurant has this undeniable charm, right down to its colourful decor. Every little piece of decor has an interesting story, it’s like entering a home – which it is. I always leave with fond memories of conversations and observations. My first-ever feni experience was at Bhatti Village and let’s just say I’m never doing that again!
A Goan food experience is incomplete without trying a thali or two and Ritz Classic is just the place to do it. Going there has become a bit of a ritual, primarily because it’s on the way to the airport. A friend, who stops here on the way to the airport, suggested I make a stop too, and now, I plan my day in such a way that I can fit a meal here before I head on out to catch my flight, if I’m flying out in the evening or later at night. I know I’ll get a good, fresh fish curry rice thali in a jiffy. It leaves you comfortably full before you hop on to a flight. The prawn curry in the thali is quite good too; it’s definitely my top pick.
I’ve lost track of how many people have recommended Mum’s Kitchen to me! I have a pretty big sweet tooth and I love bebinca. You can’t leave Goa without trying the bebinca at Mum’s Kitchen. It’s a painstakingly intricate dish that is cooked layer by layer to achieve just the right amount of caramelisation. The whole process really enhances the taste and texture. I don’t know of any other dessert that’s made this way, so it’s pretty unique to Goa. But you need to be wary about where you have it, because it’s best eaten when it’s made inhouse. Places like Mum’s Kitchen pride themselves on such practices and there’s always a little love that goes into it as well. Believe me, you can taste it!