Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goan Cuisine-Stories from Goa...Bicholim

She is feisty, outspoken and at 60 plus years of age still working in the cashew sorting factory. Her name is Chandra Venkatesh Prabhugaonkar, and she lives in Gaonkar Vaddo. The interesting part of this vaddo is that we see a balance. We pass through a prominently Hindu dominated section which originally belonged to the Prabhugaonkar’s and on the same road we come across a mosque with the muslim houses. Communal harmony is prevalent throughout, as most shops (which once belonged to Muslim families) are now run by the Hindu Goans.

(Pic Courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas)

It was interesting talking to Chandra about the past. She was born in Bicholim and married into the Prabhugaonkar family. Her husbands ancestral house with the family deity is just next door, and on Ganesh Chaturti 500 members of the family from all over Goa congregate to celebrate the feast.

Her two daughter in laws who live with her offer’s us a ‘local’ meal. We take a tour around her small kitchen, the old one still exists as the store room, she demonstrates with her grand daughter Ruthwa watching in fascination how the ‘chool’ was lit with the ‘phukane‘ She still uses the old method of cooking during festivals.

We sit down to reminisce the past with snacks like are chivda and biscuits –the cashew biscuit shaped like a cashew nut and nankattai’s served as tit bits. She has six children three were born at home and three in the hospital. ‘When the time came (for birth) the midwife ‘voigeen’ who stayed close by would come home. The ladies in the house would assist in the birth,’ she says. Those were the days of joint family. Seeing the black chord around her grand daughters neck, we enquire about the same. ‘We had to take them to the dishtkar,’ she says solemnly. ‘There are spirits around everywhere and the child would fall sick often and after the visit to the woman(dishtkar) in Margoa, she would get better’. Yes there was a lot of faith and belief in this ritual.

Food is now served. As we slurp through the rice bhangda hooman (with the fish heads for flavor) and the tails fried with masala, the local vegetable tambdi bhajji accompanied the meal. We learn that as a child Chandra used to work in the cashew factory sorting and grading the cashew nut. ’We were paid Rs 1/- for 15 days,’ she smiles, ‘we would use a bamboo stick to break the outer shell.

Today with a group of local women she works at the factory. Very little has really changed in these vaddos. With a few modern amenities life still carries on as in the past.

While cashew nut is one of the industries that dominates this taluka, Sattari the taluka which we were to visit next is also known for it’s abundant use of the cashew tree. And while lifestyles and status were intertwined with one’s profession, could the next taluka throw a different story? Here is the recipe of the local accompaniment that Chandra served us – Tambdi bhaji. Simple and nutritious. 

(Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas)

Tambdi bhajji  Preparation: 20 minutes
Red  Amaranth leaves   50 gms,  
Onions  1 no,   
Coconut    ¼ no,    
Green chilies    4 nos,    
Coriander leaves for garnish,  
 Oil     1 tsp


Step 1: Chop leaves roughly. Chop green chilies and onions fine.  

Step 2: Heat oil, add chopped onions and chilies with the laves. Fry for awhile. Now add the grated coconut. And cook. Serve sprinkled with coriander leaves.    Optional: can be cooked without oil.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Goan Cuisine - Stories from Goa…Pernem

I walk into the home of Shubangi and Vaishali Gotge. The mother- in-law daughter-in-law duo love to spend time in their kitchen. They live in a simple ‘middle income’ Hindu Goan house where the kitchen of the past is still retained on the ground floor. Although the upper storied rooms with the main kitchen have undergone modernization, it was a novel experience to soak in the atmosphere of the past. There were many local equipments and implements that our grandmothers used strewn around about the place. Unfortunately the fast paced life (quick fix meals) and smaller rooms in living accommodations (bungalows or flats) do not permit them to be used in many kitchens today.
The Gotge’s have lived here for many years, and Ms Shubangi prepares the traditional dishes learned from her mother in law as is the custom. There is one preparation that the locals from Pernem (Pednekars) are proud of and that is the Shagoti. It is believed that the Shagoti’s origin was in this taluka. 


 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas 

The women of the Ghotge household put in nineteen  ingredients into this preparation; the chilies include three varieties...the Pernem chili, bedgi chili and green chilies. She agrees that her preparation is spicy as the Pernem chilies impart a ‘spiciness’ to the preparation, but its mouth watering (in more ways than one) – absolutely ‘droolingly’ if such a word exists- good.
 The man of the house, Mr Manohar Ghotge has many interesting stories to tell. Fish was obtained for their daily repast in and around the taluka...Arambol, Mandrem and Morjim (the seaside places) to mention a few.  But many villages in Pernem (away from the sea), did have a way to catch their own fish. This taluka has many water bodies besides the sea, besides the river there are numerous ponds. ‘One way was with the use of a fishing line on which a huge tiger prawn was used as bait’ he informs us. While many of us might consider it a tedious time consuming process for the locals it was a way of life as it was a way used to feed their families. ‘The villagers sometimes strung a net attached to a floating tube across the water (from 4 pm in the evening till the wee hours of the morning), however although the catch would be bountiful it would  not specific to the fish required for the curry,’ he continues. 

Yes there were specific fish to be used for the Hooman. His knowledge keeps us spellbound.  He smiles and adds  ‘and then in small ponds they would use a ‘khand’ (basket) to catch sweet water  fish, but also there would be the adventurous type- who were able to catch the fish with a cloth ‘pagu’. 

These are people who genuinely know and love their fish.

Excerpts from the book – The Culinary Heritage of Goa