Love at first bite

Love at first bite


 A lentil- based dessert which liberally uses coconut milk, jaggery and cardamom.

My initiation into Konkani food was calamitous. Blame it on cheppe kheer, Lord Ganesha and Mrs Sulochana Bhandarkar. The last mentioned lady, my mother-in-law, is probably rustling up some lip-smacking Konkani food for those Up Above, even as you read this. Bless her soul and bless her solkadi.

I remember that Ganesh Chaturthi 14 years ago as clearly as any young Konkani bride would remember her dhalitoi recipe. Dhalitoi is nothing but a dal, and if the consistency is right, it is also referred to as DDT. The DDT here translates into Dhaat (thick) Dhalitoi, not dichloro diphenyl trichloro-ethane, the stuff sprayed on pest-ridden crops.

But let me start at the beginning. I am a Malayali married to a GSB.
GSB, contrary to what you may think, stands for Gowd Saraswat Brahmin. This mostly fair-skinned, light-eyed, rapidly-balding (in the case of males) species hails largely from coastal Karnataka. Which is why others often refer to them as Konkanis. Why they refer to themselves as Aamchis, however, is another story, for some other time and place.

But, let us not digress. We were on to the tale of the elephant god and my m-i-l, remember.

To cut a long story short, this was the first of many Ganesh Chaturthis I spent at my m-i-l’s. At the wife’s heeding, I scrimped on breakfast and we headed across to their home quite early. The males were busy with the puja and entry into the kitchen was barred as my m-i-l busied herself with unpronounceable works of Aamchi culinary art like patradaw, gajbaje, saasam, madgane, patoli and cheppe kheer. Ah, how can I forget the cheppe kheer?

Test of taste

The puja went on and on, and then some more. As did the cooking. It was 4 pm by the time the bhatmaam (priest) called us for the aarti and 4.15 pm finally when we sat to eat after a hastily rendered ‘Jaidev, Jaidev Jai Mangal Murti’. I had a splitting headache by then and was ready to chomp on the plantain leaf in front of me. My wife’s uncle soon came along ladling out generous portions of cheppe kheer, the dish which marked the start of the feast. Assuming that Aamchis started their meal with a sweet dish, I gave him a weak but encouraging smile when he tipped a generous portion onto my leaf.

The meaning of cheppe, I learnt in retrospect, could range from bland to tasteless to salt-free depending on which Aamchi you ask. What they all reluctantly agree on, however, is that it does not define the properties of kheer as we know it.

The aforementioned kheer was predictably cheppe and much to my horror, I had to polish off the whole lot with a hastily procured ‘satisfied’ grin as though I was eating a combination of shahi tukda and ras malai with my favourite kesar topping.

Over the years and after many mouth-watering feasts that followed I discovered that Konkani cuisine is much more than cheppe or kheer.

The community is largely peace-loving. Except when the topic veers towards whether the 2 kg necklace that Radhika wore to Shantala’s neighbour’s cousin’s wedding contained as much gold as she claimed it did.

So don’t let dishes with battle-scarred names like colmbaw, bagde koddel and binsa upkari or savouries like ghasmandaw, ubatti or chirmundaw frighten you. These are a people who have honed culinary nomenclature to an exalted art. No other south Indian community I know can twist a simple word like dosa to the menacing pawlaw.

Why, they even have an Italian version of the dosa which they proudly refer to as maida ‘pitta’ pawlaw. OK, I made up the Italian bit, but you get the drift, don’t you?
There are only two types of Aamchis. Those who readily admit that they live to eat and those who lie that they don’t. Coconut and cashew are an inseparable part of vegetarian Konkani cuisine, as is teppal (which doubles for garlic) if you’re eating temple food.

In Hindu mythology, Annapurna is worshipped as the Goddess of Food. If she ever decides to incarnate on earth, you can bet your last mithai undaw she will choose an Aamchi home.

And if it’s our home she picks, I’ve decided to welcome her with a crisp maida pitta pawlaw. Try one some time with green chetney and you’ll know why.  

(All Konkani delicacies in this article carry phonetic spellings)

Konkani delicacies to die for


Ingredients: 1/3 cup chana dal, 2 fistful cashews (with skin), cardamom, jaggery, coconut (tender), 1 tsp rice powder.

Method: Dry roast the chana dal in a wok and soak it in water for an hour. Soak the cashews in warm water. After some time, the skin will come out easily. Peel them and keep aside. Boil the soaked chana dal and cashews in water till chana dal has cooked. Grate the coconut and extract first milk and keep aside. Take the second and third milk of the coconut and boil the chana dal and cashews in this milk. When chana dal is almost cooked, add jaggery and boil for some time. Make a paste of the rice powder with a little water and add it to this cooked mixture to give it a little thickness.

Add the first milk of the coconut which has been extracted and kept aside. Boil the mixture. Remember that after adding the first milk of coconut, the entire concoction should not be boiled for a long time. Add powdered cardamom and serve.


Ingredients: 2 medium-sized ripe mangoes peeled and cut into 2-inch cubical bits, 1/2 pineapple cut into square small pieces, 10 ripe but hard green grapes cut into halves, 1 dessertspoon sugar (jaggery), 1/2 coconut grated, 2 red chillies, 1 pea-sized lump tamarind.

Method: Since this concoction is not cooked, use boiled water while grinding. Cut the fruits. Add a little salt and sugar and keep aside. Roast the red chillies and grind the coconut, red chillies and tamarind to make a paste using boiled water. When the paste is half done, add a big pinch of raw mustard to the paste and grind till well crushed. Recover adhering paste with a little boiled water and add this masala to the mango/pineapple/grapes mixture. Stir well and serve. Remember, it is highly perishable.

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