At the purumentchya bazaar… before the monsoon rain descends stock up on pickles, fruit preserves, papad, coconuts, all kinds of masala, condiments and more…so that one may sit back and listen to the rhythm of the falling rain!
BY TARA NARAYAN
CAN anything be more lulling than silvery monsoon light filtering in through coconut tree fronds outside a window…hey, the monsoon is here one more time to enjoy! I’m always happy come the monsoon rains despite the grovelling for water and power to live with dignity in urban Goa and India. (Rural India manages without either with more grace because they’re still not so spoilt that they depend on government utilities.)
Actually, I’m pining to live somewhere where I don’t have to depend on the government for anything! Call it alternate community living if you like, an idea which is already doing well in enviable places in the world…but even for that I guess one needs loads of cash, at least initially. After that cash becomes immaterial more or less!
Anyway, right now it looks like I’m going nowhere and have to console my heart with some of Goa’s charms like say the Goan Foodomania Purument Bazaar at the Menezes Braganza hall on May 26/27, 2018. These pre-monsoon bazaars are a treat and offer insight into humble Goan kitchens. Mercifully Goa is still a naturally endowed and blessed state and one realizes this anew at a purumentchya bazaar offering freshly harvested coconuts, mangoes galore, home-based entrepreneurs offering a host of desirables for the palate — like sweet lemon pickle to live or die for (depending on how much you feast on it), water mango (chepnim), glistening dark red kokum peels, a bottle of agal (salty kokum concentrate useful in fixing sweetish kokum tival/solkodi, I also add a teaspoon of it to chilled buttermilk for something thirst quenching to drink, braids of little onions, tirphal (these dry berries popped in sabzi or dal give an aromatic high)…..
Sweet rich lemon or mango pickle with a strong hint of hing is bad for my heart but I cannot resist it, a little lemon pickle with cheddar cheese in a sandwich is this side of paradise! Revati Sanzagiri had all kinds of home-prepared masala from golden turmeric to heady coriander, including masala with chili/without chili, also kashay powder to help brew a tonic tea for rainy days. Goa’s caju is hard to find but Kunnal Verlekar of Dando Curtorim was selling them at Rs 900 kg; and these days I’m buying Suprajit Raikar’s Sahyadri flora honey — he’s the person to consult if you want to understand honey, raw organic honeycomb, bees and beehives, beekeeping training programs, organic fertilizers (his honey is available on Amazon.in).
Then meet Maria de Mello of ‘The Goan Homestead’ in Saligao. She specializes in all kinds of Goan pickles, masala, jams, preserves…check out her rechead/xacuti masala, fruit vinegar, guava jam/jelly. She has all the Goan pickles ranging from tendlim to brinjal to prawn balchao, kingfish molho, bombil pickle, kaanta pickle, ambade miskut, chepnim. These days one may pick up excellent organic cold-pressed coconut oil (recommended widely if you don’t want to be stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and everything else which makes growing older a pain you know where). The Ranchikud Goan kitchen women were also there and if it’s a Goan tiffin service you’re looking for check them out.
Andhra cuisine is fiery hot and Jaya G is expert in all things Andhraite, she had lemon/mango/ginger-garlic pickle and a tangy tomato chutney with a unique flavour which one may lace into cooked rice and relish with a dollop of desi ghee! You want chana dal powder or curry leaf powder…call her — 9850462833.
Small farmers had brought baskets of mangoes…banganphalli, kesar, mankurad, malghese, bishop, etc. I looked for Goa’s intoxicating lemons but couldn’t find any. Tamarind, jackfruit, jackfruit papad, a bit of mango papad in dal gives it a sweetish tang; and someone had Punjabi pepper papad which I couldn’t resist buying, for when I make dahi bhat at home a roasted papad is in demand! The purumentchya or traditional pre-monsoon bazaars of Goa are interesting to visit and one may pick all manner of goodies which are staple fare in most Goan homes.
Not to mention stocks of dry prawns/fish (mackerel and salmon) for nobody goes fishing during the monsoon months and most Goans fall back on dry seafood to survive their seafood lust. Never mind that a lot of Goans also think that the monsoon months are for fasting and going vegetarian at the very least for a good cause — giving the creatures of land and water a chance to breed in peace!
TALKING of caju do you know that you may soak caju overnight and then grind them in a mixie to get a fine caju milk, strain if you wish but you should get a silky soft caju melt. Use to give texture to a soup or a chutney or gravy…a dairy milk alternative of the very best kind. You know caju is all kind of good things, don’t you? The nut is a native of Brazil but has found a home away from home in Goa — a handful of caju daily is a powerhouse of goodness; the delicately sweet creamy nuts offer polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which our brain cells need. Caju is rich in mineral and vitamin B values…and a lot of folk think they’re heart-friendly. So enjoy your caju, but don’t overdo it; 100 g of caju is 553 calories.
Some folk are allergic to caju. This is because of urushiol chemical in raw cashews, it’s akin to poison ivy or poison oak…but after they’re steamed and roasted they’re safe to eat (although of course raw caju or biyo are also used in gravies in Goa). I think I’ll go back to Kunnal Verlekar of Agrove and ask him more questions as also to buy his excellent Goan caju. I don’t know why but I’m assailed by a memory of how my mother used to keep a tin of caju-kishmish in the dark recess of a cupboard…and caju-kishmish offered by way of a treat of a snack to children. Hey, I can’t think of a better snack.
If you have children bring back this idea of keeping a jar/bottle/stainless steel dibba of caju-kishmish at home — to stop children and adults alike from falling to the temptation of ordering junk food samosa or cheesy croissant in the evening! I like to add some crushed caju-kishmish to a Gujju dal if I’m making it…but do remember that too much of a good think may lead to stomach trouble. No more than a hand full of caju-kishmish at a time please and enjoy slowly, not in jhat phat hurried fashion — like somebody is going to catch you and fire you for finishing the caju-kishmish in the house.