The Mackeral (Bhangda) is one fish which is found in every Goan household. We see them dried, in a kishmur, fried, masala fried….numerous ways in which they are served in restaurants. But I was on a quest to source a preparation which most restaurateurs do not focus on. And also to find out what the Gen Next feels about the preparation. I was lucky to get all that under one roof…the home of Vaishali Joshi in Vasco
She had learned the preparation from her mother in law, the late Ms Prema Joshi. The lady was legendary in her Saraswat culinary skills and had imparted that knowledge to her daughter in laws. Joining us was the eldest daughter in law Lalita and the fifth and youngest Monica. And the subject for discussion was the ‘Bharille Bhangde’ (stuffed mackerel) as pronounced in Konkani. Now we are all aware that the mackerel is an oily fish and a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. Moreover as the flesh of mackerel spoils very quickly, drying and salting is the principal preservation method in Goa for a rainy day.
Vaishali had ensured that the Gen Next of the Joshi family was present for a discussion on the preparation. Looking at the fat fish (they were stuffed of course) which were tied with a banana stem, on the table on a bed of lettuce I wondered what the youngsters would feel about this traditional preparation. So here they were…. Neha, Charuta, Shamini, Vibhav, Mihir and Rishabh.- Gen Y and Z. What did they feel about Goan food in general…would the cuisine remain the principle focus in the years to come? They were asked. The educated youngsters were keen to air their views. From responses stating that palates and tastes today are flexible as there is a lot of choice, to the fact of unavailability of local ingredients (grated coconut a case in point), to spending half a day in the kitchen cooking……did not augur well for the stability of retaining the Goan cuisine as No ! in most urban household. So I decided to change direction and worked on the subject of ‘fish’…all Goans love their fish don’t they? Charuta confesses that after marriage to a Gujrathi her love for Goan food has increased as her husband loves the cuisine. Neha loves the bharleli bhangda as she loves the stuffing and the crisp taste of the skin. Vaibhav too is partial to the preparation. However, comments ranged from the taste and flavor being a bit too strong to a preference for the Hooman to the bhangda. The Gen Next today knows their minds and their taste buds too.
So what is the future of these delicacies? Lalita relates an anecdote of the past. Her late aunt in law Prafulla Dahanukar had invited Asha Bhonsle to try the preparation. Unfortunately she could not make it due to prior engagements, so Lalita was given the task of packing the bharleli banghda in a container and taking it to the airport where Asha Bhonsle was taking a flight. A few weeks later Lalita received a letter from the singer saying how much she relished the preparation. ‘Our preparations were really tasty,’ Lalita says, ‘and I still have the letter.’
The ‘rusch’ of the past…however times have changed and traditions are slowly dying. Perhaps it is time to ‘strategize’ and re market the excellent ‘rusch’ of our preparations, or else they will slowly be ‘stuffed’ into obscurity.