“You can get anything you want, at Gopal’s Restaurant”

Have you ever had an orchestrated morning? One where, somehow, something from the day before has got lodged deep in your memory and that has triggered a mental switch that’s turned on an old recording in your brain. So when you wake up, there’s a tune playing in your head clear as crystal, and you can hear all the instruments and voices like you have a iPod plugged in, except in that in this case it’s all there in your internal hard drive?

Anyway, I awoke this morning at 4.00am with one. The tune of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” was running through my head, in continuous loop and four-part harmony. Mine was an adapted version, one that I would sing during lighter moments in the kitchen way back in the 1980’s when I used to cook at Gopal’s Restaurant in down-town Melbourne.


“You can get anything you want, at Gopal’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Gopal’s Restaurant
Walk right in for a bite to eat
It’s just upstairs from Swanston Street
You can get anything you want, at Gopal’s Restaurant”

If you know Arlo’s tune, it helps. We used to have lots of fun singing that song, while cooking for 500 or so happy punters who made Gopal’s their premier choice for good, wholesome vegetarian food with a difference – the Hare Krishna difference; the little extra something that made the food taste just so special.

Somedays I would add extra verses to the song. In Gopal’s early days, there was no price for the food. It was donation only, and people left whatever they pleased. Sometimes we found some strange things in the donation box, which prompted this add-on verse:

“Leave a donation, put it in the box,
An old tram ticket, or a pair of socks,
You can get … etc”

Of course, they weren’t all ‘days of lassi and roses’ back then, but I survived, and so did Gopal’s. You’ll be happy to know that Gopal’s restaurant is still there, after more than a quarter of a century, at 139 Swanston Street, diagonally opposite the Melbourne Town Hall. And while you may not be able to get literally ‘anything’ (as the song suggests) its still a great place to eat.

So, you may be wondering what triggered this walk down memory lane, and the song in my head? I received a letter yesterday from Deanne in Cowwarr, in Victoria’s Gippsland region (yes, there is a place with such unusually spelled name).

” Hi Kurma, I was in Melbourne the other day and enjoyed a meal of Kofta Balls with poppy seed rice at Gopal’s. The rice was so good (as was the Kofta balls) and I was wondering if you knew the recipe. Thanks so much, Deanne”

poppy seeds:

Well, if my memory serves me well, I recall making up that rice recipe, way back in 1981, and it quickly became one of the many favourites on Gopal’s All-You-Can-Eat selection. I’m happy to hear that it’s still on the menu, although I am not sure whether the cooks have stuck religiously to the kitchen recipe bible that I wrote before I left there in 1990 to embark on my writing career.

Here’s the original recipe, in all its tasty, toasty simplicity.

Sauteed Rice with Poppy Seeds

Gently toasting the rice in butter, ghee or oil before adding the water, in the style of making risotto, allows all the rice grains to remain separate.

Preparation & cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3 or 4 persons

1 cup basmati or other long-grain white rice
2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1½ teaspoons poppy seeds

Bring to the boil the water, salt and lemon juice in a 2-litre/quart saucepan over moderate heat. Keep it covered to avoid evaporation.

Heat the ghee or oil over moderately low heat in a 2-litre/quart saucepan. Saute the poppy seeds in the hot ghee until they become aromatic.

Pour in the boiling water, raise the heat, and allow the water to fully boil for a few seconds, then reduce the heat and allow the rice to gently simmer. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and cook without stirring or removing the lid for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the rice is tender, dry, and fluffy. Turn off the heat, allow the rice to steam another 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

That’s given me quite an appetite. I might duck down to Swanston street right now…
Posted by Kurma on 10/6/06; 3:11:01 AM

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