Ordering in: A retiree's passion for making authentic Goan dishes

The Goan prawn curry features the unusual addition of mangoes, which gives the curry a slight sweetness and enduring memorability. — ABIRAMI DURAI/The Star

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, William Jacques’ mother passed away. At the time, Jacques was 58 and working in event management. With work drying up, time on his hands and the memories of his mother and her delicious Goan food on his mind, he decided to retire from his full-time job and start something new.

“About three weeks after my mother died, I suddenly had this thought of starting a food business. I live in a neighbourhood Kuala Lumpur and we have a Facebook community page and I noticed that a lot of people started selling food, because restaurants were closed.

“So I had this thought and I spoke to my sisters about it and I said ‘Why don’t we get something like this started?’,” he says.

And that was how Jacques launched his fledgling home business Houz Of Goa, devoted to the recipes he picked up from his late mother, Linda Menezes, a talented home cook whose parents hailed from Goa.

Jacques is particular about cooking his authentic Goan dishes from scratch every time there is an order. — WILLIAM JACQUESJacques is particular about cooking his authentic Goan dishes from scratch every time there is an order. — WILLIAM JACQUES

Goa is a state in the southwestern coast of India that has a long history of Portuguese influence. In fact, the state was under Portuguese colonial rule for over four centuries, and this impact continues to linger in modern-day Goa, especially in the food of the state.

For Jacques, it was his mother that spurred his passion and love for Goan food. Linda learnt to cook from her own mother (who was born in Goa) and by all accounts, she loved to feed people.

“My mother was a person who loved to entertain, so we were always having parties in the house and she was always cooking for people. If somebody came to visit, she was like, ‘Eh, stay for lunch lah!’ And in a short period, she would whip up a huge meal and the table would be filled with food!” explains Jacques.

Jacques himself never learnt to cook until he got married, upon which he started learning how to make his mother’s heirloom recipes. The fact that Linda made her own Goanese meat curry powder and fish curry powder from scratch also meant that Jacques’ cooking involved only learning to make the basic elements of all her recipes.

But when he started Houz of Goa, Jacques became fully immersed in the business of making Goan food from scratch and after some tutoring from his sister Rachel, he started making everything – including his mother’s famed curry powders – by himself.

These days, Houz Of Goa has a full-fledged arsenal of Goan dishes and Jacques cooks everything himself, operating on a pre-order basis. Because he wants the food to be as fresh as possible, he often wakes up early to go to the market and buy fresh chicken, fish and other ingredients as he doesn’t like using things that have been in the fridge or freezer for too long.

To begin your Goan culinary adventure, consider starting with a snack like the Potato Chops with pork mince filling (RM3.80 per piece). These fat corpulent discs are filled with mashed potatoes, which shroud a thin layer of minced pork. All of this is then breaded and fried till golden and crispy on the outside.

The potato chops are stuffed with minced meat and delightfully silken soft mashed potatoes in a combination that is nothing short of hedonistic. — WILLIAM JACQUESThe potato chops are stuffed with minced meat and delightfully silken soft mashed potatoes in a combination that is nothing short of hedonistic. — WILLIAM JACQUES

This little treat is a true delight – the mashed potato is silken soft, with nary a lump in sight and this is accentuated by the minced pork. In many ways, this is akin to miniaturised versions of shepherd’s pie, albeit with a lovely crispy twist.

For larger meals, there is plenty to whet the appetite. All the main meals are designed to feed six to eight people, so do bear that in mind when ordering.

First, try the Fish Recheardo (RM65) which features a tamarind-infused masala paste, which is used to marinate the fish and is also heaped atop the fish once it is fried. The result is a spice-riddled affair that is excellent from start to finish.

The fish is fresh and boasts plump, tender flesh enhanced by the masala paste, which is slightly fiery but also has a wonderful tang to it, and complements the aquatic qualities of the fish incredibly well. This is a meal whose star-studded attributes are instantly recognisable from the very first bite.

Jacques’s Pork Vindaloo (RM70) pays homage to a traditional Goan dish that is ubiquitous throughout the state. His version incorporates a hearty amount of pork, carefully calibrated so that the meat-to-fat ratio has equilibrium, which is one of the key components of a good vindaloo.

The pork is coated in a thick gravy that is lightly spicy but undulates with undercurrents of vinegar, a powerful component in any pork vindaloo. Here, its presence is perfectly calculated to leave an impression without overwhelming the palate, resulting in a meal where addiction is virtually guaranteed.

The Chicken Xacuti (RM75) or xac xac as it is now known as among younger Goans, is made up of dried chillies, curry powder and grated coconut, among others and is a pleasant dish that isn’t too spicy, but has lovely tropical nuances studded throughout the dish. Additionally, because spice levels aren’t too high, this also makes for an ideal meal for kids.

Pork vindaloo is a classic Goan dish that Jacques has mastered to a fine art. — Photos: ABIRAMI DURAI/The StarPork vindaloo is a classic Goan dish that Jacques has mastered to a fine art. — Photos: ABIRAMI DURAI/The Star

The Goan Prawn Curry (RM65) features prawns and a surprise addition in the form of mangoes. The result is a light, flavourful curry speckled with copious amounts of prawns, that also has quiet but pronounced sweet notes from the mangoes in the mixture. The deft, clever balancing of both components is what gives this meal an unforgettable appeal.

Given that Jacques is now fully retired and spends his days tending to his business, he has naturally been inundated with suggestions and requests that he open a full-fledged Goan restaurant. But having only just hit his stride at 60, Jacques says he is happy exactly where he is.

“There are lots of people who have been telling me, ‘When are you going to open a restaurant? But the work around a restaurant is crazy! And what I really love doing is cooking!

“At this age, I find it very relaxing – I don’t have anybody in the house, my wife goes to work and my children are in school, so I sit and do things at my own pace.

“That’s why I don’t think I want to go any further to open a restaurant or café, I am content with this little home business,” he says.

Order from Houz Of Goa by sending a WhatsApp message to 011-1116 2644.

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