Guisado, Apa de Camrao…how many of these preparations do we find in restaurants today? Sodanch na…literally translated means ‘not every day’. And therein lays the story. But before that let’s hark back on a preparation – Empadao de ostras. It is not a preparation available every day, but the pronunciation does have a romantic twist and so was the tryst with the ladies of the Almeida clan – Cidalia nee Almeida Bodade and her aunt Aplonia Almeida now settled down in Lisbon (Portugal). And what was special about this occasion was daughter in law Dipshika’s visit with son Karan Jaime…. This was going to be a tasting to remember.
Besides restaurants, how many homes prepare this dish? Granted it takes over an hour to prepare and a lot of effort right from cleaning the oysters to creating the potato mash. Did Karan ever taste this preparation? He nods, ‘in my grandmother’s home in Margao,’ says he. Cidalia adds ‘this recipe is from my grandmothers kitchens.’ Now while we had 3 generations seated in the hall, this dish would have been made perhaps a hundred years back. And the dish had to be baked. How? There was no electricity during that time. So with a ‘then and now’ the subject of the Empadao de ostras was discussed in detail. ‘The oysters were much bigger then,’ Cidalia says, ‘and would be cut in half. Moreover the onions used were the ones which would be hanging from the rafters on a bamboo stick…the empadao’s were baked in a double kundli. The dish was kept in the one over the fire while another kundli was put on top with burning coconut husk (sonnas) to provide the heat from above.’ ‘Baking was only done to brown the dish,’ adds Aplonia, ‘as most of the cooking is done before.’
So would this dish be different from the original preparation brought in by the Portuguese? ‘A few ingredients added can change it a bit,’ she says, ‘but the preparation is nearly the same.’ Looking at the list of ingredients one can marvel how turmeric and tomato ketchup were introduced in the recipe. ‘In the past tomatoes were used, but tomatoes would tend to get rancid over a period of time as there was no refrigeration so ketchup was found to be a great substitute. One must also take care to cut the onions fine,’ she cautions.
As the tasting of the empadao de ostras commenced…the creamy tomato mash encasing the spiced oyster filling below, we are informed that a similar preparation Bacalhau Comnatas made of Bacalhau(salted cod fish) and fresh cream also graced the tables. Aplonia confesses that there was a time when she did not have Bacalhau with her and she had promised to prepare the dish for some friend. ‘I found dried Pilo (shark) in Karwar,’ she chuckles, ‘and I made the dish. The tastes are quite similar and unless you taste the actual bacalhau it is hard to tell the difference.’ Yes today’s Gen next will find it difficult to tell the difference when it comes to these preparations…sadly not being prepared everyday in many homes. The Arroz Doce(sweetened rice) made for weddings, the Caldeirada (a sort of fish stew), Fofos de Peixe (crumb fried parcels with fish filling), Apa de Camarao (a spiced prawn filling rice cake)…those were the days of a romantic culinary interlude of the West and the East. Sodanch na….but there is another story to tell. Aplonia states that in the days gone by, the Sannas were always a festive preparation. Ever wonder how it got its name? Apparently the locals would say ‘Sodanch na’ (not available everyday) about the dish which got abbreviated overtime to Sanna.