This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Prawn Toast, for me, is a perfect mixture of culinary satisfaction and nostalgia
I have no idea why I haven’t brought up this haunt before, given that it has been one of those places that I have loved dearly over the years; and as I have grown older, its nostalgic value has only risen in my books. The restaurant that I refer to is Rice Bowl, along the stretch that leads from Margao to Colva. The little place, started eons ago, by the erstwhile P K Sharma moved about a couple of times before settling down in its current location.
I refer to my own words a little while ago, wherein I wrote about P K Sharma, and how in the mid-nineties, he was an institution of sorts in certain circles of the southern part of Goa. Having started out as a chef in one of Margao’s popular ‘Chinese’ restaurants, Gaylin; he eventually set out on his own to open a string of restaurants, almost all of which have been named Rice Bowl. What makes Rice Bowl interesting is that at the time, through its various avatars, it was a restaurant that broke away from the notion of Chinese food needing to be an expensive affair, taking the billing aspect of dining to the reach of the common man’s purse strings.
Growing up in a Goa devoid of the glitzy restaurants of today, family outings always happened at Rice Bowl, which was like a second home. As a result, I shamefacedly admit that one (read me) takes these second homes for granted, and it gets lost amongst the mountain of work, but has often saved me at the end of a long day. Dining there earlier this week though, resulted in me realising how dutifully Rice Bowl has served Goa for the better part of the last two decades, and on this given occasion I was lucky enough to interact with both P K and (the pride and joy of P K and his wife, Percita) his son, Pawan (who I remember as a schoolboy, but is now a dapper, young, heart-breaking biker who now runs the establishment almost single-handedly). The evening made me realise that a lot of people waltz in and out of our lives, and then, you have some that are constants, for whatever reasons.
The way I like to start my meals at Rice Bowl is with their ‘Prawn Toast’. Its effectively batter coated triangles of bread, with a massive amount of prawn and finely-diced onion; of which the upper side is covered with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a heavy starter, and one that will raise the eyebrows of the health-conscious, but also one that will put a smile on the faces of those that appreciate good eating.
And of course as is the case with oriental restaurants in general, one does not go to one and not order a ‘fried rice’. There are two dishes on this front that I find un-missable, purely because of the fact that they’re hard to come by elsewhere, the ‘Chinese Fried Rice’ and the ‘Seafood Fried Rice’. The latter was also popular on the Gaylin menu when I last visited, but I haven’t been there in a while. It consists of rice that’s been tossed in a wok, with gravy that has a few greens and plenty of flavour of the sea in the form of minced prawn and squid. It’s a lovely marriage of land and sea, really. The ‘Chinese Fried Rice’ on the other hand is a cross between the orient and Europe. It’s a sparkly-white fried rice with crunchy greens and scallions, along with mushroom and shredded chicken.
The best accompaniment for the rice, in my opinion, is the Prawn Black Shanghai/Mushroom Black Shanghai. I mention these as though they are two different dishes, because they are. In India, Chinese restaurants allow you the option of having something in a gravy form or a dry counterpart. And when you do that with this dish, the options are beasts of very different natures. I find that the drier variant best suits the mushroom, while the gravy is better suited to the prawn, both of which sport strong soy flavour.
Now, an absolute personal favourite of mine at Rice Bowl is a dish that they call ‘Mandarin Honey Chicken’, and before taking so much as a whisker of a step further, I’ll admit to all and sundry that this dish is beyond an acquired taste. It’s a thick and glutinous gravy of sorts (think sweet corn soup in terms of consistency and colour), with a strong flavour of honey, and strips of batter-coated chicken. It’s one of those classic ‘love it or hate it’ dishes, with no middle-ground, and I personally adore it.
All in all, the food at Rice Bowl is something that I personally find comforting. It’s flavoursome, easy to eat and is all encompassing in terms of ingredients. There is a little bit of everything thrown in and that makes it a very homely style of cuisine, with strong oriental flavours. However, it’s the little bits and bobs, and the lovely vibe mixed with servings of love and family values that make it even better; and why it’s a given outlet for me to consistently eat at.
While Rice Bowl has had many avatars over the years, one thing remains constant – the superb quality of the food served there.
The portions are a little larger than single serving, so big eaters may need to order extra.
The average cost of a meal for two, minus the libations, is ₹700 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Margao-Colva Road, Seraulim, Goa 403708
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.