This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Dynamite Shrimp on offer at Fat Panda
Last week, I took a trip down memory lane, into the heart of Candolim, which really never sleeps, does it? In what seems like eons ago now, I frequented an establishment called L’Orange, which sadly no longer exists. Personally, I have many memories that are associated with it, so hearing that the place was shutting shop was a tad gut-wrenching. However, unlike many other ventures where the out-going establishment is replaced by an underwhelming newcomer, L’Orange’s exit made way for a welcome new entrant on the food front: Fat Panda. And that’s precisely where this time’s culinary voyage took me.
Fat Panda has a very interesting USP. They have taken the age-old concept of Chinese street food, and placed it in a gentrified setting. And gentrified is a mild way of putting it. Street food is usually messy, clumsy and sometimes (especially with Chinese cuisine) downright messy. There is none of that to be had at Fat Panda, where everything is the way it’s supposed to be. Dinner on your plate, that takes you back to the early ‘90s, when the Chinese cart movement began.
The concept is one brought quite literally to the table by Allwyn Mascarenhas, Asheen Lobo and Joseph (Joe) Dias, who’ve made their mark on the oriental food scene in the state, courtesy their endeavour ‘Wok N Roll’ in Sinquerim, apart from being the ones that run the kitchen at Tao, in Panjim. At Fat Panda, they have another partner on board, the affable Denzil Dsilva, who’s always at hand with a grin that suggests mischief is being managed. What is also interesting about the venue is that it is self-proclaimed as an Indo-Chinese restaurant, and in a bizarre twist for such outlets, is completely MSG free.
I started off with an order of ‘Dynamite Shrimp’. And why wouldn’t I? Anyone who has ever eaten at a PF Chang outlet knows that it is to die for. It’s basically a prawn cocktail on another level, made popular by the aforementioned popular American franchise. Why do I personally rate it so highly? Simply put, while the secret of the recipe may not be out yet, apart from its great taste, there’s a lot of history involved with the dish too. The basis for the concept was influenced by the British in Hong Kong. Chinese cuisine conventionally doesn’t use any dairy products, but the Dynamite Shrimp has Mayonnaise in it. The British brought it to Hong Kong, and in no time, Chinese Chefs in Hong Kong discovered it and started using milk proteins. With that being the basic concept behind the recipe, the good people behind the brand added the spice and flavour to the mix, which has resulted in today’s near-cult following for it. Fat Panda nails the brief, and the advantage with the dish here is that it uses absolutely succulent, fresh produce, just off local shores.
From here on, the bar had been set, and it was lived up to, to be honest. I next devoured a plateful of ‘Calamari in Chilli Plum Sauce’, which embodies crunch, tanginess and spice. While some of these dishes may seem a tad offbeat, never fear, the old cart classics are here to stay too. These include the familiar names of Golden Fried Prawns, Street Chilli Chicken and the house special of ‘Kung Pao Potatoes and Nuts’, which (as much as I despise most things vegetarian) I have to say, is an absolute winner.
Lest we forget, American Chopsuey adorned with its fried egg at the top of the heap, is very much present on this menu, as is the late night, post clubbing favourite, Triple Szechwan Rice. Other options along the main course line extend to the creative bits of the mind, where one can pick from a number of sauces, like garlic oyster, chilli black bean, 3 pepper sauce and Manchurian, and have them tossed in a wok with the hero of their choice, ranging from vegetables, seafood or meat. It’s a simplistic yet personalised manner to handle the affair.
A special mention needs to go out to the dessert. The ‘Toffee Banana’ with a side of vanilla ice cream is to die for. The shocking process is carried out to perfection, which ensures that the puréed banana is still steaming on the inside, while the caramelised outside has the right amount of crunch. To…die…for…
With a complete value-for-money approach to customers, and everything about this menu being nostalgic, to say the very least, there is no way that this venue can be anything shy of a panda-roaring success.
Fat Panda is a refreshing venture, where heartstrings are catered to as much as stomachs, given that the food involves a walk down memory lane.
Don't expect any fancy oriental frills with this place. It's a very hands-on venue, and go with the sole expectation of receiving what you would from a cart.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹1,500 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Marquis Vado Main Road, Next to Magnum Resorts, Candolim, Goa 403515
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.