Goan cuisine by SAPNA
Effable and down to earth, Sapna Anand easily makes you forget you’re talking to a celebrity chef. It’s also hard to believe that she only picked up cooking seriously about 15 years ago, after she started living abroad.
The Kerala-born chef spent her youth in Goa, and readily admits that she hardly stepped into the kitchen before she got married. Following her husband whose work took him to San Francisco, and later Ireland, she was coerced into picking up a cookbook as eating out was not really an option then.
By the time the couple was transferred to Malaysia where food is easily found at every corner, the cooking bug had already gotten hold of Sapna who took it to the next level by learning pastry-making at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok.
“Malaysians are passionate about their food and it is a melting pot of cultures, even on the palate. I love the food here, and tried the local spices and herbs,” said Sapna, who has been living in Malaysia for about two decades now.
“In the beginning I was just experimenting in the kitchen and trying out new recipes, and writing all this in my blog. A publisher (MPH) wanted to do a book on Indian cooking and was introduced to my food,” she explained, and the rest as they say, is history as Sapna today has two books (New Indian Kitchen by Sapna Anand/Fast Indian Cooking by Sapna Anand) to her name, with the third on the way.
So, there’s hope for me yet! Sapna encourages me by saying, “Don’t give up! You never know how things work out! In fact, the pilot for the TV series didn’t get picked up until four years later by AFC.”
From her blog, Sapna expanded her repertoire to include cooking workshops, having her own line of Goan premium Spices, being a TV host on her own cooking show on Asian Food Chanel, cook book author and most recently, running her own restaurant named “Goa by Sapna Anand”, located at Ascott, Kuala Lumpur, in collaboration with the SOUL Society Group.
I don’t know how she does it, because frankly, I’m already tired listening to her list of accomplishments!
Before this, Sapna was already working with Goa by Hubba on a consultancy basis for the past four years, but now, she is fully immersed in the running of her restaurant. The cuisine is reminiscent of Goa from her memories, interlaced with Malaysian senses.
Despite her busy schedule, she still makes an effort to connect with diners at the restaurant where she spends most of the time these days. But don’t take my word for it, meet up with Sapna yourself as she’s every bit as friendly and approachable as she appears on TV.
Proof is in the tasting
Sapna kindly whipped up four dishes for us to try during this interview. To start, Paneer Cutlet, a popular street food in Goa. The firm crisp ball fell apart in the mouth to reveal fluffy potato with some fenugreek at its core. Totally addictive especially when eaten with paneer (cottage cheese) dip, if it weren’t for the other dishes waiting, this would have been finished in a cinch.
My personal favourite was the Chili Prawns, doused in melted butter and garlic, with toasted bread to dip into the sinful golden liquid. The prawns were fresh and luscious, the bread fragrant and crispy, and paired together, such lovely harmony.
The Fish in Saffron Sauce, a tribute to Kerala Fish Molee, was drenched in a flavourful, creamy sauce which went really well with rice and then, there was the unusual Banana Fritter with Mutton Curry. Deep fried pisang tanduk, I love, and the rich mutton curry, redolent of spices and herbs, is a dish I enjoy, usually with rice. Eaten together, however, gave me mixed feelings, as I wasn’t accustomed to the sweetness in the curry flavours. Sapna says this is an undiscovered Keralan dish, usually made with beef rather than mutton.
Her homestyle cooking gives off earthy, familiar, comforting flavours and are dishes she would cook at home for family and friends, she says.
For the closer, Sapna so kindly prepared Rose ice cream and Alphonso Mango with Coconut ice cream – surprisingly not as sweet as I thought it would be – that made a refreshing end to a lovely meal.
Dining at Goa by Sapna Anand is not just about enjoying Indian cuisine, it’s about a unique Goan experiencing which does not come by often, cooked with a lot of heart.