Shravan & Chavath temptations at Sapna Sardessai’s ‘Kokum Curry’ in Panaji & Candolim… Goa to has a plattar of heritage festival meals!

By Tara Narayan

OVER the years I’ve discovered that nevryo and patolyo is to Goa what modak and ladoo is to Maharashtra! The first is a mildly sweet ivory crescent shaped crunchy, redolent of flavoured grated coconut and semolina (rava) filling; the second is a delicately steamed rice batter crescent pancake oozing with a filling of similar grated coconut and palm jaggary choon as it is called. Both are much loved Chavath or Ganesh Chaturthi sweets of the very best kind – when made with clean, honest ingredients and love!
Goan sweets between Hindu Goa and Catholic Goa vis-à-vis Portuguese and other colonial experiences offers an amazing smorgasbord of goodies for the sweet as also not so sweet palate; plus, Goa has many bakeries and confectionary outlets with new ones opening up every now and again to offer more interesting bakes or so to speak. If you really want to enjoy Chovoth or the festival paying tribute to the elephant god of Hinduism, Lord Ganesh, you have to move from a traditional Goud Saraswat Brahmin household to a tribal village in Goa and you will see the contrast of faith which Lord Ganesh commands from people from varied backgrounds. Hindu Goa still eats with the seasons and celebrations as they come and go…lately I have been learning a great deal courtesy culinary hostess Sapna Sardessai and her memoirs of traditional eating in a GSB home, she’s really mistress of Goan Saraswat traditional cuisine along with her executive chef who is Anjali Walavalkar (another doyen of GSB cuisine…Sapna has been describing “pancha khaadyan,” five sweetmeats they offer the deity on Chaturthi days) and much else. Only at her sublime eatery of Kokum Curry (in Candolim and Panaji) you will get to savour a perfectly made nevryo or patolyo during Chavath’s ten days of observation of rites and rituals to woo the blessings of Lord Ganesh.
A lot of Maharashtra has rubbed off on Goans and so you will find ukdiche modak and pais on Chavath days …if you eat a couple of times at her Kokum Curry you will get some wondrous insight into Goan Saraswat cuisine which contributes to the larger repertoire of Konkan coastal cuisines vegetarian and non-vegetarian…a typical menu on her day’s platter will feature temptations such as “toushyachi ghaari” (a fermented sweet made from the seasonal, local toushe or cucumber, a heritage recipe or so she says), “kokundudhyachi kheer” (bottle gourd cooked in thick coconut milk), “biyanche tonaak” (cashewnuts cooked in a coconut gravy), “gaddeache raite (a chutney made from turnips), “alluwadi” (which is described as a “sushi kind of roll made from colocacia layers”), “flowerachi koshimbir” (tantalizing cauliflower relish, I love this!), “ansaachi karamm” (another favourite of pine, it is pineapple cooked in a mildly spiced coconut chutney), “mullyacho ros” (radish in dal curry), “channeachi ooslli” (a dry preparation of cooked white peas), “xeet” (steamed rice), papad (deep fried local papad), chapatti (layered flatbread), “ambadeache lonche” (freshly made hog plum or ambade pickle, tartly delicious), “khutti kadi” (a kokum digestive), “limbu anni mitt” (a nice touch to add a lime wedge and a few pinches of local salt) plus, plus, a platter of a meal to enjoy once in a way or once in a day! I dare say lunchtime may stretch to teatime at Kokum Café before you feel like leaving. I haven’t been there yet, only heard of it from this friend and that friend.

For Lord Ganesh and his devotees....the pristine steamed white modak is traditionally made in every home in Maharashtra, but mawa modak in various flavours and colours have become popular now. In Goa kaju & badam modak are also available at upper crust mithai shops during the Chavath days!

SO this is to say if Kashmir has its special feast platter of Wazwan, Kerala its special feast platter of Onasadya served on a pristine green banana leaf (my favourite platter)…Goa too has its GSB platter with distinctive seasonal highlights and sidelights! Like I said Goa still eats with the seasons as they come and go and Goa is still a wild garden of paradise (varnishing rapidly beneath the onslaught of housing constructions with Delhiites and Mumbaikars seeking second homes just to run away from their sick, cancerous, cities to feel the great outdoors and agreeable abundance of all kinds of cuisines to savour and celebrate in Goa. Make the most of the last of these Chavath days!
MY needs are so few that these days when few friends visit, I shop in small quantities, otherwise I’m the one eating it all up much to my despair. Since I’m no mood to cook at home beyond the minimum in my dotage, I find I tend to make up by buying in small quantities and get quite irritated when vendors at the Panaji early morning market have these huge bunches of green and say a “No” when I ask for half-a-bunch of dill greens or green coriander; these days the hog plums oval and of a larger tennis ball size are plentiful and while riding by on my two-wheeler down the terrible inner road of Bhatlem to the heritage Latin district of Fontainhas in capital city Panaji one may see the odd hog plum tree owner standing by the roadside offering bunches of these oval ambade (hog plums because Goa’s hogs or pigs like to forage beneath these trees looking for fallen ambade treats) at say Rs50 for the whole bunch of 25 or 30 ambade. The larger oval ambade which are not so tartish are Rs50 per dozen or so – what to do? Peel and drop them in your dal of the day or peel and make chutney as in mango chutney or relish…make ambadechyo karam or ambadechyo sasav (a tangy delight for the palate), you may chew the sour juice of the seeds if you can while enjoying your Ganesh Chaturthi meal. Ambade, small ovals or large ovals, will feature in most of the matoli canopies beneath which the Lord Ganesh idol is installed from one-and-a-half days to 11 days or 21 days (usually the community or Sarvajanik Ganesh Mahotsav) before gala immersion day.
This is to say go shopping for ambade or hogplums before they disappear from the local market! The small ovals are extra exciting when tender and one may chew right through them, no cheap thrills like those of chewing right through a mildly aromatic thinly skinned oval green ambade! Of course, your teeth may protest afterwards, make a green chutney or sherbet featuring ambade sours. Monsoon time ambade has many joys for foodie souls.
EVERY Lord Ganesh season I look for some decent nevryo or modak to buy. Modak now come in a wide range at the mithai shops and most are of mava but here and there you will see badam (almond) or caju (cashewnut) modak…after a long time I dropped in at Sweet Nation for some fafda and jelebi and amongst the line-up of modak found an interesting combo modak of almond-gulkhand (Rs1,800 kg), the kesar caju modak (Rs900kg) too are not cloyingly sweet…so I bought 100 g of each, respectively, or was it 200 g, I forget. When you buy small treats become a little more affordable in these runaway inflationary times courtesy our utopian raj sarkar which believes success is all about living off royally at the expense of the common working people of the country!
You see these ad infinitum around the world too and some of the countries are the G20 countries…their leaders live life king-size at their people’s expense. Think about it and don’t just think. If the current runaway inflation is bugging you, just do what I do, buy in small quantities, this is possible when even the retailers know the sweets are costly and few will buy! So they are kind enough to let you buy as little or as much as you wish…some will even weigh one modak or ladoo and sell it to you Rs20 or Rs25 a piece! Sometimes I do this just to check out sugar content of a sweet temptation. Some let you taste for free but it has to be taste for free and not eat for free, make the difference.
The other place to buy kesar caju modak is Babusingh Thakur Peda and the temporary Rasoda counter which has come up at the Caculo Mall in Panaji, they’re selling at Rs1,050kg…steep, but they are fairly quality conscious and their khasta moong dal and onion kachori are good on a good day! Once upon a time I used to buy them in lieu of samosa but no longer. Can’t afford healthwise, heartwise.

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