Category Archives: Cooking

Mangoes and other Konkani Fare

We bought this season’s first batch of Mangoes today! Its already mid May and only a person hailing from Konkan would probably understand the lamentful undertone of this statement. Infact, not just a Konkani, any other person who has tasted our most valued contribution to the gastronomic (and ecological) world –  Alphonso Mangoes would find this situation pitiable.

The mango season begins from late March onwards and ends by Mid-June. March is too early to buy since the first lot is always very costly. Usually prices correct by mid-April and the quality and quantity of the fruit too improves over this period. By the beginning of June, Mangoes get cheaper, but the quality too deteriorates. When I was growing up, we’d buy chests and chests of mangoes during summer vacation. My cousins would usually visit us during the period and then we’d have this daily mango-time in the morning. I remember my grandmother rationing mangoes in order to ensure that we didnt overeat (which caused heat-boils). She’d also make sure, we each had a glass of milk after we ate mango every morning. The mangoes then would be large in size and have red-pink-orange tint and smell heavenly. They became more and more popular over the years, and nowadays, such fruit as I described is only of export quality (hence not available for us sinful locals). Nevertheless, prices of ordinary alphonso mangoes too have sky-rocketed. At one point I remember my mother bargaining for a chest of mangoes (containing ~ 50 mangoes) for Rs. 350. Today we bought a mere dozen of mangoes for more than Rs. 1000. Gone are the days of chests after chests of mangoes which would be consumed as fruit, pulp, jam, milkshake, ice-cream over the period of summer vacation. Neither do we have that many mangoes in the market (they get exported) nor do we have lot of money to buy..

A trip to the mango vendor is not for the limited purpose of buying mangos, but also to purchase the entire year’s stock of, other goodies from Konkan. Some of these items are available locally throughout the year, but the taste, the flavour, the aroma never reaches to the authentic Konkan level. Again, I suppose this is something which not many people (except those from Konkan of course) will get. The mango vendors are usually some plantation owners from Konkan who set up temporary stalls during the mango season. So all that they sell is fresh and original ‘made in Konkan’ stuff. If I sing songs of Kuleeth Peeth (flour) – to a larger part of the world including North India that would sound odd since it is actually a cattle feed – but in Konkan, we use the Kuleeth flour to make Kuleeth Pithla (which is a heavenly concoction of only Kuleeth flour, chillies, oil, garlic and Kokam skin, can be made in less than 10 minutes, has creamy consistency and must be eaten with cooked rice), Pickles/amboshis (of innumerable varieties), other seasoning food such as mirgunda, chikawadya, papads, metkut (kind of powder made of rice and some lentils and spices and tastes amazing when mixed with curd/ghee/or even plain), goda masala, amsul (dried Kokam skin), Kokam agal (extract of Kokam fruit which is used to make our famed Sol kadhi – which is a made with mere coconut milk, Kokam agal, cummin seeds, chillies, coriander and a pinch of sugar and tastes amazing). Then you have Amba/Fanas poli (sun-dried pulps of Mango and Jackfruit), Kaju gar (Cashews) and cashew fruit jam / jelly, supari (Areca nut), numerous sharbet mixes (mango, gooseberry, kokam) etc. With my limited knowledge of my community, I am aware of only these popular items sold here in Mumbai. Given the vast cultural diversity within Konkan region itself, I wonder how much I might be missing out on….though I hope to discover most of it someday…

Advertisements

Thoughts and Conclusions

About….

  1. Dosas:  NO MORE DOSAS FOR ME!! I’ve had enough of them lately. Infact, the ongoing week’s been like a “Dosa Festival” at home, where event organizer  was yours truly… Mum’s away and so I’ve been called upon to take her place in the kitchen. Now, cooking remains a recreational activity for me unless my Mum goes out of town or is unwell…and I tend to avoid the usual poli-bhaaji-bhat-varan/amti route and prefer to make one single item, which can serve as dinner for previous night cum breakfast for the next morning etc, since I cannot afford to keep several items on the menu and also manage my schedule… so well, this time around, I decided it was  to be different types of dosas which I would be experimenting with. First day was a fusion Rava Dosa. The next day it was cucumber – dosa. When I mentioned these names to my colleague (who’s a Tam Bram) , she actually told me that they didnt exist…well, I’m sure that most of what I cook is always a fusion. You dont always find all the ingredients at the last minute . Like everyone else, even I ended up replacing one ingredient with the other, added something on my own and Viola, a new dish!! So far so good! They were loving it and I thought of many more types of dosas which I could feed them with. My father and my brother were astonished though when I told them that I was making a type of dosa on third evening (yest eve) as well. It was a recepie shared by an enthusiastic aquaintance who was more than willing to teach it (and a lot many) to ensure that my training in being a  homemaker continued while my mum was away. So the effect was this third dosa, made mostly of rice flour, onions and turmeric. The effect was a wobbly  dosa, which my father thought looked like  an egg omlette. Now it needs to be mentioned that he is a pure vegetarian and cannot even be anywhere near non vegetarian food, including anything made out of egg. So he of course could not eat it. Even at the breakfast today. So  I decided that I needed a break from this cooking routine in general and Dosa in particular. Besides I had a note to prepare (Which is why I am up right now at 1.50 am and working!!) . So I called him up from work and told him to order something from the nearby restaurant for ourselves for dinner tonight. For myself, I told him, I needed something light, since I had to work most of the night tonight. So, I was all anticipation when I reached home tonight, only to find that he had ordered Masala Dosa for me!! Arrgh! no more dosas.
  2. Cooking: I love cooking. Though I dont cook daily / regularly. I could have become a chef perhaps, if I hadnt studied Finance.
  3. Crazy Fat Women in the Trains: Damn you ladies! in ideal situations, I’d say seamless pressure on body from all sides sounds like some kind of resistance training,  but in situations like my daily commute to work,  when I am subjected to being aggressively pushed around, shoved around and sandwiched from all the sides, all I can think of is getting off the train, onepiece and alive. I was struggling yesterday, surrounded by a bunch of fat ladies who were literally squeezing me from all sides. So busy was I in concentrating on breathing regularly that I didnt notice that my purse too was getting subjected to this pressure torture. As soon as I got off the train though, I realised that somethng was clinking inside my purse. To my horror, my sunglasses had broken. One grand may be a small amount for some,but to me, wasting one grand is significant enough… Suddenly , I remembered a recent conversation, when the person went on and on about thrift and benefits of public transport. I wondered if that person had ever been through something like this!!
  4. Sunglasses – I am going to mend them. Not because I am crying over one grand. Its because I absolutely adored them. I could have bought costlier pair, and there were many branded ones which I could have bought, but mine was the first pair I saw and absolutely loved. My sunglasses were huge, somewhat tacky maybe, but they were super comfortable.
  5. Books: I do not deserve to own so many when I hardly read these days. The Strand exhibition is still on, and like every year, this year too I will buy books from there, manage to read one or two and leave the rest untouched. I really need to manage my time better.
  6. Reading: I wish trains were less crowded, so one could spread out the newspaper comfortably / read book while in train…
  7. Public Transport – Sucks big time. But I have no option…
  8. Tranquility – is a rare commodity these days and with some flyover work beginning in my own area, it’ll wane all the more. My area had been a quiet residential part of the city, and I would have really loved to see it like that forever….alas, it is not to be!
  9. Creek – Whats gonna happen to the saltpans and the creek in my area? those parts just remind me of my childhood and school days when we had spent lots of our idle afternoons at the saltpans, doing practically nothing – just starring at a distance!