Lindsay Street Phuchkas at Goa... Park Hyatt

Whenever I think of Goa, which is very often, I think of the pork chilly fry of Infantaria, the prawn baffad of Brittos , the water buffalo baguette of Lila Cafe, and the mussels chilly fry of Love Shack.

Phuchkas, from the streets of Kolkata, definitely don't feature here.

Phuchkas are first cousins twice removed of Delhi's golgappas and Mumbai's paanipuris. What makes phuchkas different is that these are stuffed with mashed potatoes unlike boondi (tiny, hollow gram flour paste balls), tomato, sprouted moong or onion which are stuffed into its cousins. And the water in phuchkas is hot and sour (tamarind based) and doesn't have the sweet chutney which the other versions have.

My favourite phuchka seller is the guy at Lindsay street at Kolkata, near New Empire Cinema and New Market. What makes his phuchkas distinctive is the hint of pudina that he puts in his tamarind water which forms a lovely cooling relief to the sour spice of the regular chilly powder doused tamarind water.

So how did I get Lindsay Street phuchkas in a five star in South Goa at the other end of the country?

We stayed at the Park Hyatt, Goa this weekend for a long aspired to South Goa monsoon luxury holiday after dipping into my pension.

Well, the Park Hyatt had quite a good buffet spread. It was quite different from the insipid, faceless fare in usual five star meal packages.

They had a live counter at night where they served lovely Goan prawn chilly fries the first night. The next night they had a vegetable kathi roll counter which we ran away from.

That's when I went to the chaat counter. They had everything - paapri chaat, daahi chaat, paanipuri and what have you. But my eyes lit up when I saw the ingredients. I saw the paani puri shells, same as phuchkas. I saw spiced mashed potato. I saw chopped green chillies. I saw regular sour water (khatta paani) of chaats made with tamarind water, chilly powder AND pudina like the Lindsay Street guy!!!!

I walked up to the counter and told them to put a bit of mashed potatoes and green chillies in the phuchka shells and to give them to me with a bowl of the tamarind and mint water.

I dunked the stuffed phuchkas into the tamarind water and took a bite. And I reached busy New Market in Calcutta in two seconds.

The phuchkas tasted perfect - crisp, spicy, sour, cool. You took a bite into the delicate flour shell and the heady mix of cherubic mashed potato, flirtatious sour and minty water and devilish green chillies just poured into your mouth and said, "hello old friend".

I had about ten phuchkas. Interspersed between succulent grilled chicken, lovely lamb vindaloo and some excellent rabri for dessert.

As they say, you can take the Bengali out of Calcutta but you can't take phuchka out of the Bengali!

More on the Park Hyatt buffet, and why it was different from the standard hotel package fare, later...