How does one picture Goa? Lush greenery everywhere with coconut and beetle nut palm groves, barges sailing on the backwaters with bridges over them, colourful Portuguese style houses, blue waters with beautiful beaches, colourful shacks on the beaches with fun-loving people drinking and enjoying the sea food! Goa is an absolute paradise for the sea food lovers! A vegetarian person like me has to do with vegetarian takes on Portuguese inspired dishes like Xacuti or Vindaloo or else Punjabi cuisine which is universally available. Authentic Goan vegetarian food cooked in the households, is very rarely available in the restaurants even in Goa, let alone else where. While people are raving about coconut based Thai curries, they hardly know about absolutely delicious Goan curries! My mom-in-law was from Mangeshi, a small religious town in Goa, famous for the Shiva temple. So after my marriage when I went to Mangeshi, I tried the Goan vegetarian food for the very first time and I just fell in love with it!
You have to be absolutely fond of coconut to like Goan cuisine and if you are not I assure you that you will start liking it once you try the cuisine! What makes the Goan vegetarian cuisine unique is the use of lot of interesting ingredients. Goa was a Portugal colony for more than 400 years. So naturally, there is a lot of influence of Portugal on Goan cuisine. Portuguese were the ones who introduced potatoes, tomatoes and chillies to Goa along with guavas, pineapples and cashews. The use of cashew nuts and pineapple makes the Goan food exotic!
Jackfruits are locally grown and can be eaten raw as well as ripe by treating them in different ways and making savoury as well as sweet dishes with them. Another very unique vegetable belonging to the jackfruit family, is the breadfruit. Locally known as Nirphanas, breadfruit has a lot of health benefits about which I will elaborate in one of my later blogs. It can be consumed roasted, baked, fried or boiled. Fried breadfruit or nirphanas kaap, as it is known in Goa, is a delicacy. Use of plantains is also very common in the Goan cuisine.
Another mandatory ingredient is the kokam or Garcinia indica, which can be made into an interesting squash called kokam sherbet when ripe. It has a sour flavour and is used in the curries. Sol Kadhi, made from kokam, is a very popular appetising drink. Kokam is a very good anti-oxidant amongst other health benefits.
Goan brahmin food is typically less spicy but packed with flavour and makes use of spices like asafoetida(hing), carrom seeds(ova/ajwain), pepper, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds. Other commonly used vegetables are pumpkins, gourds, raw papaya, roots or kanda as they are called.
When you have such interesting ingredients to cook with, the food is bound to be delicious! My idea of comfort food is steamed rice with nice coconut curry. And you would be surprised that such a delicious dish can be created using such less ingredients! That is Goan food for me, minimalistic yet flavourful! Please do try this Ovyachi kadhi, a curry made with ajwain or carrom seeds and coconut milk, the recipe of which I am sharing below . Carrom seeds are very good for treating acidity and indigestion, common cold, arthritis and offer a lot of health benefits.
Hope you like it. Happy cooking!
Carrom Seed Curry(Ovyachi kadhi)
- Carrom Seeds to be ground 1 tsp
- Dried red chillies to be ground 3-4
- Coconut grated 1
- Tamarind Pulp
- Oil for tempering 2 tbsp
- Curry leaves
- Carrom seeds for tempering 1 tsp
- Dried red chillies for tempering 3
- Dry roast the first quantity of dried red chilies till they crisp up and dry grind the chillies and the first quantity of carrom seeds into fine powder.
- Add grated1/2 coconut and warm water to the above powder and grind to a very fine paste.
- Prepare coconut milk with the remaining half coconut by blending the grated coconut with luke warm water and then passing it through the sieve. Alternatively ready coconut milk can be used.
- Mix the ground paste with the coconut milk and add tamarind pulp, jaggery and salt to taste.
- Temper hot oil with curry leaves and second part of carrom seeds and red chillies. Pour this over the above mixture.
- Heat the curry till hot but not boiling hard and serve with hot steamed rice and a papad by the side.
Hope you enjoy the curry with your family and friends and do let me know how you like it.