We would not associate Karachi with authentic Goan dishes such as sorpotel Where bebinca. But that’s only if you haven’t heard of Amchem Goa, the Pakistani city’s only Goa store, run by the close-knit Fernandes — Assis family, Luciana and their daughters, Donna and Stephanie.
The store, which opened last October, caters to a large community in Goa, some of whom have lived in the city for more than three generations. The idea came to the family when a Muslim friend commented on the lack of authentic Goan restaurants in Karachi. In just a year, Amchem Goa has become the favorite place for typical Goanese dishes and ingredients like coconut vinegar and kokum.
Read also | Pakistani artist in search of home
The dishes, prepared by Assis and Luciana, have been modified to suit the palate and cultural norms of Karachi. Thus, beef replaced pork in the sorpotel. The chorizo maas also uses diced fatty beef marinated in fiery spices in place of pork. But some things have remained constant. “In Amchem Goa, we use powder to hang up (asafoetida), an integral part of the sorpotel. Our recipes were passed on to us by our grandparents, ”explains Luciana.
Now 60, she tells how her parents, from Salcete, Goa, moved to this city. His mother, Rita Braganza, came from a family of renowned chefs; part of the family is still in Goa. His father’s family emigrated from Goa to Karachi after the partition.
“My mother was 11 when she came to Karachi to work for a wealthy Parsi family. Around the same time, my father’s family had also migrated there. Karachi was the perfect place to find work as there were wealthy Parsi and Hindu families here who needed domestic workers to look after their children and for other household chores, ”she explains. “My father (who was in his twenties) found a job as an apprentice with a carpenter. My parents met and got married in Karachi and their love for the city made them stay and continue their life here.
Read also | Go beyond the “choris” of Goa
Assis’ parents, originally from Saipem village, moved to Karachi as newlyweds in search of better prospects, a few years before the partition. Growing up, Assis and Luciana were exposed to a vibrant culture, immersed in the music, drama and Konkani language of Goa. Over time, however, many families moved to other countries.
Amchem Goa hopes to revive some of this culture. Certainly its customers are happy to experience new and familiar flavors, ranging from pickle to brinjal, shrimp balchão and mango korum To dodol and bolinhas, a Goanese interpretation of the coconut macaroon. Stephanie’s Lists sorpotel, crab curry, lime pickle and bebinca like their bestsellers. While the parents prepare the pickles and the dishes, the girls take care of the desserts, marketing and a side jewelry business, on display at the store.
Interiors of Amchem Goa.
For many, the store embodies memories of a land left behind. Stéphanie Nazareth, a client of Goan origin who speaks warmly of her visits to Goa, where she still has family, evokes the nostalgia evoked by the dodol. Another customer, Valentina Fernandes, says the shrimp caldine took her back to when her stepfather was cooking the dish.
A fourth generation Karachi resident summed up her feelings in an evocative note on the store’s review board: “As Pakistanis with Goan roots, we regularly cook some of the Goan dishes at home alongside Pakistanis. . But my Goan cuisine has acquired a feeling of fusion. Finding real Goan food that looks like what our grandmothers used to cook is a rarity. But not anymore…”
The family is thrilled with all the word of mouth publicity. Even Bilal Hasan, a popular blogger from Karachi, posted an article on Amchem Goa, asking Luciana to quote something she would like people to know about Goan culture. She replied, “The culture of Goa is a way of life, full of happiness, music and good food.” And that’s what Amchem Goa stands for.
Jayanthi Madhukar is a writer based in Bengaluru.
Read also | How a man’s obsession with feni led to a museum in Goa