IN SEARCH OF SHRAVAN THALI

A bonanza of thali meal deals for Shravan ka mahina: (clockwise top left) Bhojan thali with choice Indian breads in inset; Tiffin Factory thali is a home delivery; the Fortune packed meals come in Indian, Continental, Goan, Oriental in veg and non-veg; finally, Café Tato veg thali (with choice of puri or chappati/paratha. No dearth of veg thali meals in Panaji for the month of Shravan, only aggravation is designer plastic platters for takeaways or home deliveries!

By Tara Narayan

NOT that I’m fasting in any sustained manner but intermittently when I do on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, I do look for a thali meal somewhere in town to cheer myself up on a gloomy rainy afternoon. It’s nonsense that one may not be able to fast on nothing but fresh air and love, and water…for even a day! It’s always the logistics which take a toll of my resolutions.
But these pious Shravan-ka-mahina days I’m wondering which is the best Shravan thali meal deal in town both qualitatively and economically in Panaji town. Vegetarian of course, monsoon days the story is to let other life forms on earth breed in peace and not go in for the perennial kill. Study and correlate the sensibility of this and it’s also scientific common sense!
Well, there’s a lot of controversy on that but I do think when I manage to cut my calories on a meal a day for any length of time, I do feel better mind and body, heart and soul. So that’s all the reasons I need. I’m no believer in all that about one may or must eat three meals a day or six small meals being espoused these days (unless one is eating for the sake of one’s medications!). As a general rule one’s better of drinking and eating when thirst is palpable and hunger pangs strike. It’s a known fact that on a 1,500-2,000 calorie diet one stays well, depending on quality of calories of course.
There are horribly restrictive diets of 600 to 800 calorie too but there are diets and diets with all kinds of rationales attached to them. I trust Naturopathy first and ideally would be happy if I can manage a 70:40 (natural/cooked) food diet to more or less stay on the right side of alkaline than acidic — for the sake of health and eco-friendliness. Hey, I’ve heard lots of miracle stories of what happens to body beautiful when we become raw foodies in a disciplined, creative manner. It means our red blood corpuscle or RBC count zooms with energy. I’ve heard this over and over again but if anyone wants to further confirm it with empirical data they are welcome and I’ll share the research here.
BUT to stay with Shravan ka mahina veg thali meal deals in town, really the best deals are at our Goan veg eateries of Café Tato or Café Bhonsale or Café Real and a few more places but these are my favourite haunts. Where for a 110 or so, one may get a decent thali meal come lunch time and they’re decent, freshly-cooked meals I assure you, popular with many. Wonder how many calories a typical thali meal would work out to, probably 2,000 plus, plus, if you make room for the day’s sweet which could be gulab jamun or sheera or pais, pickle and papad. The Goan potato bhaji is very popular but it literally oozes with some vanaspati ghee (a hydrogenated fat) and I always want to exchange it for something else! One has the option of fried puri or chapatti which may sometimes turn out to be a fried paratha. You’ll find exclusive thali meal deals at Fortune where the fish thali is popular, but their takeaway thali packs are also doing good for large orders from those celebrating something or another in office or home. The vile plastic pocketed platters are much copied now by others! Fortune thali meals range from236 to a little more depending on whether you take the Indian veg, Goan, Continental or Oriental. Then there’s the old favourite thali meal deal at Fidalgo’s Bhojan… unlimited thali adding up 320 something with bottled water thrown in compulsorily. Here there’s too much of everything you may or may not want to drink and eat with sweet drink sherbet to begin with, two or three farsan (kachori, moothiya, dhokla, chaat), two or three sweets, half a dozen and more sabzi (dry and with gravy), varieties of dal, plus pickles, papad, bit salad, buttermilk I always welcome. Not to forget choice of three to four breads like Gujarati rotli, paratha, puri…. Recently, I’d gone out to Bhojan with a friend and must say they’re pretty crowded come lunch-time with folk traipsing in for a eat-to-your-heart’s-satisfaction meal. The Sunday afternoon I was there they also had Rajasthani dal-batti-churma and one may ladle copious amounts of ghee on the chosen breads! There’s also a choice of plain rice and/or jeera rice…it’s one exotic-as-you-can-get thali meal deal and if one gets carried away one may have to waddle out packed to the gills (your stomach may hate you later on for being such a glutton). But then it’s up to you. At Bhojan it’s buttermilk and mango choonda I love the most and relish it with plain ghee-laced rotli (not as light-hearted as my home-made ones, but will do for outside eating). The thali basically revolves around Gujarati and Rajasthani recipes. Menu changes daily and it’s up stylishly on a board set up outside the restaurant. It’s a great place to eat in peace with family or bunch of friends celebrating something. It’s not strictly speaking a Shravan thali but if vegetarian is all you seek, here you may entertain yourself with some sublime, some stodgy, sometimes cold by the time it arrives at your table. However, my all-time favourite Guju thali meal is at Vijaybhai’s Navarang, it remains a hole-in-the-wall affair but the rotli/phulka is best in town, as also dal, buttermilk, and a steal-of-a-meal at150 or more depending on whether you want the sweet or not, the specials or not, I always say no to salty pickle, spicy papad, sugary sweet although Milan mausi here insists on including them in my platter even if I only want to waste them.
Kokni Canteen has a popular veg thali, I’m not sure it adheres to Shravan time’s edicts of no onion or garlic; Peep Kitchen is doing a Shravan menu this year but I haven’t been there yet, Forrest’s at the Mahavir Bhagwan Gardens down Campal promenade used to do a Shravan thali but it’s closed down now. Don’t know if Hotel Grand Delmon’s Royal Salute, where Anjali Walavalkar once upon a time presented a superlative Shravan thali, is still carrying on the tradition.
Amongst the 5-stars I know one may find a brilliant Saraswat Shravan thali (very upmarket) at the Cidade-de-Goa, as also at the Marriott Hotel, please check before you go. Finally, the Taj Vivanta Panaji does a regular veg and fish thali and the veg thali is superb for `500 something, a local woman chef does the sabzi Konkan-style and she does a memorable job of it.
HEY, I’ve just heard my friend Sangam Pai Dhungat of Dhungat Hospitalities is presenting his umpteenth edition of a proper Suwadik Shravan sit-down meal with vegetarian delights from Saraswat cuisine like much-loved khatkhate, moogachye ghati, karatechye raite, tangy ananas or ambadechye sasav, crispy soft potato/ breadfruit kappam, lots more. Either go out to his eatery Voltaire at Reis Magos (Nerul) or do a home order after talking to him (call him on 9822588231 for further details). I think he is doing delivery in Panaji too nowadays.
Actually, it’s not hard to find just a veg thali meal deal in town and several will deliver at home like Supriya’s Tiffin Factory. But in Goa it’s hard to find chapatti not fat, uncooked or burnt here and there, puri not dripping with oil, sabzi not loaded with garam masala, dal not salty, rice not dowdy, sweet not painfully sugary!
All the same, happy hunting for a Shravan thali meal deal these last few days of Shravan ka mahina, regardless of whether you’re fasting or not. If fasting I swear you’ll appreciate food more keenly, with utmost respect — and not let one grain go waste on your thali. How much we poor little rich ugly Indians waste food is criminal!

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