Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

My all-time favourite Goan sweet is the golden crunchy khaje! It’s more popularly called “kadyo bodyo” and is one of Goa’s quintessential zatra or feast sweet. Khaje sounds so mundane compared to the lyrical kadyo bodyo which hints at all kinds of delicious things. Now this is what I call a classical nutritious sweet created long before refined white sugar, maida or our plethora of refined fats came along courtesy the industrial revolution in food.

Mercifully, in Goa there are still old world graces like the religious zatra of Hinduism or patron saint feast days of Catholic Goa. So every now and again one may find these traditional vendors in the vicinity of the temple or church celebration with carts piled high with freshly roasted plain and salted gram (small and big), crunchy vatana (peas), peanuts (plain and salted) and all manner of other crunchy savouries and sweets like the tantalising khaje.

Khaje always lures me to go on a tasting spree to buy the best of the lot. Adulteration has crept in with unscrupulous vendors wanting to make a killing by substituting gram flour with maida, honest jaggery with refined sugar and of course using one of the hydrogenated vegetable fats called vanaspati or Dalda or some mixed oil (all industrial ingredients which should be banned) for the frying. But some of the khaje is worth celebrating or reveling in. So taste away, I say.

An authentic khaje is a treat for sore eyes. It looks gloriously good and inviting. Bite it and it will be soft, wholesome, sweet, crunchy, and without a smell of any stale oil in it at all. The taste of refreshing, fresh ginger-infused jaggery coated khaje fills the mouth. It twists and crumbles with generous coating which is not chewy or hard. Khaje has always been there somewhere in the fringes of my sub-conscious but recently I re-discovered it anew courtesy the Chanekar sweetmeat and savoury makers of classic, traditional snacks.

BICHOLIM-based Chanekar’s I’m sure make the best khaje in Goa. The family believes it was their grandfather, the late Rajaram Chanekar, who laid the foundation of Chanekar Classics in 1940s when it was known as Rajyale Khaje, who created the crunchy golden rods of khaje.

Traditionally, gram flour dough is rolled into thick sev (cigarillo shape), deep fried and then dunked in ginger-infused jaggery syrup before drying out. The swirling notes of khaje snap into smaller, more manageable pieces and you may pop one in your mouth. They are as delicious as delicious can be with the dulcet flavour of gram flour, ginger and jaggery coming through, perhaps a hint of sesame seeds if they have been sprinkled atop by way of extra special treatment.

The unsweetened, austere khaje too is appealing and many folk prefer these for snacks. But the jaggery-encrusted khaje is to live for and I would be happy to give it to any child of mine or yours by way of a quick pick-me-up snack after school, or in between meals to stave off hunger pangs. Mind you, one may not be able to stop eating the khaje!

I usually taste khaje for softness, hardness, sweetness and flavour, before buying, and find the Chanekar’s khaje exquisite fare.

Of course, they also do a whole range of other things like a flavorful shev seasoned with hing (asafetida) and ajwain(thymol); then they have besan laddu, til laddu, atta laddu, moong laddu, dry fruit laddu, cashewnut laddu, various savoury chivda mixes like Goan chivda, maka chivda, diet chivda and bhadang chivda.

Check out the barfi of chana dal or dalicho halwo, caju barfi, ginger barfi, coconut barfi, and the chakri, rhombus or shankarpali and churma. Plain ginger-jaggery cuts may be dropped into boiling tea water – my shortcut to a traditional divine tea, the kind my paternal grandmother used to make!

But it’s khaje or kadyo bodyo I find matchless and have started keeping at home to serve as a snack or a dessert at wish. If you haven’t discovered the Chanekar’s khaje, you haven’t lived in Goa yet. Anyone who’s going out to Wadachawada in Bordem, Bicholim, please get me some Chanekar’s khaje. If I remember right, I’d paid `60 for a half kg pack at the digi dhan mela the government was promoting to clue citizens into all the cashless ways of doing business in Panjim last month.  

The girl at the stall accepted cash after enquiring if I had a debit or credit card. No card, I said, but take cash. I refuse to buy sundry day-to-day goods using these come-lately plastic cards. While booking an air ticket or buying a washing machine I would use my card, but not while buying milk, vegetables, fruit, groceries and other household goods.

I suggested to the maid Ruta that I put her next month’s salary in her bank account and she fell at my feet. She said, “No, no, don’t do that. Then my husband or son will handle my account and I don’t want that. I like to manage my own money!”

There you are! Most women do not want to live in a cashless society and for perfectly understandable reasons. My maid even said, “Tell the government and its rich friends to live in a cashless society first, instead of making our lives miserable. I’m not going to vote for this government!”

I agree with her – let governments, politicians, bureaucrats, banks, corporations, municipal corporations, even temples, masjids and churches go cashless first before asking the people to live cashless. Narendra Modi’s government stinks to high heaven! We need to sweep it and its insensitive arrogance out of power quite simply for taking the aam aadmi for granted.

It’s like rubbing in salt in old wounds and twisting vulnerable, humble lives out of shape anew — just because this government is a government by the government, of the government and very definitely for the government.

In fact, it is not a government, but a macabre business coterie anxious to die living a royal life by fooling and conning the hardworking, honest people of this country over and over again, even after 70 years of independence, dangling hope before them like the carrot and the stick and forever whacking us and cutting into the level playing field which any decent democracy must grant its people.

Think about all this my friends by way of vital food for thought and don’t just think. It’s hard to say what a brand new government may turn out to be but I always believe in change, no status quos. Re-invent and re-invent for the better constantly.

Try, try and keep trying. On the scales of justice, we want good to outweigh evil to sweep Kalyuga and bad karma out of our lives. I promise to distribute Chanekar’s khaje if a brand new, happier dawn opens up for aam aadmi in Bharatdesh one of these days!



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