Spice on the beach

3. Reviews (International)

Karma Café, Goa, India

Although it’s not a Goan dish, Chicken Kolhapuri is found in many of the restaurants in the region. One of the best places to enjoy this spicy dish is in the super chilled beach bar, Karma Café.

Karma is run by the energetic owner Baba who’ll be seen doing everything from ferrying fresh fish from the market, serving beers, cooking food and fixing the pool table between spells of popping down to the beach to chat to his wife and little boy.

Kolhapuri is named after the town Kolhapur, which is to the north of Goa in Maharashtra. It’s about as hot as Goa’s most famous dish, vindaloo, but dare I say it, has more flavour, somehow combining burn-in-the-mouth fire with great taste at the same time. It’s addictive and should, of course, be washed down with a cold Kingfisher. Or three.

Watching it being cooked in the small kitchen out back is mesmerizing. Cooked in a pan heated to the limit over an open flame, the chef tosses in ingredients – onions, garlic, ginger, spices and chicken in turn, with the wild sizzle from the pan only being doused briefly when he adds a spoon of sauce from giant pot of masala sauce on the side. At the same time the chef uses a pot of steaming oil to cook popadoms fresh in seconds, the flat disk recoiling into its familiar post-cooked shape of curls and twists almost instantly.

Of course, it tasted better because I had watched it being cooked, but back at the table of this open-air restaurant, with my feet wiggled firmly into the sand floor and watching the moon bounce off the Arabian sea out front, it would be impossible not to get a kick from this dish.

Karma Café, Baga Beach, Goa, India. Open: about 10am–midnight (sometimes later) in season (October to April).

Karma Café snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④

Decor ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Thursday night) ① ② ③ ④

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

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