Diwali brings in a rich feast of sweet and savoury snacks in many parts of India. This delightful spread uses copious amounts of ghee and oil which are key ingredients. But, in Goa and the adjacent Sindhudurg (Maharashtra) and Karwar (Karnataka) region, festive foods are a relatively simple affair. Here, a simple, succulent and satvic menu of poha (flattened rice) and usal (legumes curry) takes centerstage during Diwali.
Also read | For Diwali, master the basics of making khoya
A wide variety of poha preparations occupy a big part of the festive breakfast platter that’s relished throughout the day. The carbs are supplemented with a higher measure of protein in the form of usal which is a curry made of sprouted or soaked legumes such as peas, beans, green gram, horse gram and more.
A fresh batch of poha would be pressed and ready just after Dussehra. Diwali would serve as the perfect auspicious occasion to taste it for the first time after being processed. “Manually pressed fresh poha used to be reddish, thick, crisp and fragrant,” shares Anuja Joshi, ayurvedic doctor and food connoisseur from Goa, “modern machines took over rapidly post 1970s and more varieties such as thick white, thin white, nylon etc. became widely available.”
Today, all these varieties are used to make numerous preparations during Diwali. The dishes are an interesting mix of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours and mostly quick and easy to make. The easiest being goad fov (sweet poha) which has washed poha mixed with crushed jaggery, grated fresh coconut, desi ghee and a pinch of salt. All this is mixed gently by hand. The flavours are balanced by adding a pinch of salt to sweet dishes and jaggery to savoury ones. In cuisines of western India, as per my knowledge, the proportion of jaggery and sugar in savoury dishes and salt in sweets is slightly more compared to dishes from rest of the country. Pieces of cashew nuts and cardamom or nutmeg powder may also be added. Even without these condiments, goad fov always exudes a festive fragrance.
Apart from goad fov, there is batat-fov (spicy yellow poha common in Maharashtrian households and eateries), tikhshe fov (spicy and sweet roasted poha mixed with peanuts, sesame seeds, red chilly powder, green chillies, ginger and jaggery), dhay-fov (spicy, sweet and sour poha mixed with curd), kadi fov (spicy and sour poha soaked in solkadhi), dudh-fov (sweet poha mixed with sugar, milk and cream), tavshachi kheer (sweet poha mixed with cooked cucumber, coconut milk and jaggery)—the variety is endless. The inherent sweetness in poha and coconut pervades every dish.
The pharal (festival snacks) such as nhevryon (karanji/gujiya), chakli, shev, chivda and ladoo was prepared only during Ganesh Chaturthi in this region. Nowadays, however, this is prepared during Diwali too. However, the importance of poha preparations is still intact. “It is delectable, nutritious and easy on your tummy,” smiles Joshi and signs off by adding, “which is usually complimented with the much-loved fish curry-rice for dinner.”
Recipe by Anuja Joshi, ayurvedic doctor, Goa
2 cups thick poha
Haf cup curd
1 cup butter milk
One-fourth cup grated fresh coconut
2 green chillies
1 inch ginger
Half tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Finely grind the chillies, ginger, mustard seeds and grated coconut with little water. Wash poha, drain completely and mix it by hand. Add sugar and salt. Let it rest. Curd and buttermilk can be added just before serving.
Some people don’t add mustard seeds in the paste but instead add a tempering of asafoetida, curry leaves and cumin seeds in coconut oil.
Black Pea Usal
Recipe by Namita Neogi, homemaker, Mumbai
Usal in Goa is usually made using white peas or alsane (black eyed beans), and in Sindhudurg district, black peas are more popular. As we move along different villages and homes, the recipes vary marginally.
1 bowl of black peas cooked after soaking overnight
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp mixed garam masala powder
For masala (locally known as watap):
1 tsp coconut oil
1 medium sized onion, finely sliced
Half cup of grated fresh coconut
Half cup of grated dry coconut
Half tsp poppy seeds
Half tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp coconut or groundnut oil
3 tbsp finely chopped onion or 1.5 tbsp crushed garlic
Roast the sliced onion in a pan on a slow flame. Add fresh coconut. Add dry coconut after the fresh coconut turns pink. Let the mixture roast till it gets dark brown. Now add the poppy seeds, fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Roast for 2 minutes. Let it cool. Add 2 tbsp cooked peas and grind it fine adding water.
For the curry:
Heat oil. Add either the onion or garlic, as per your choice and saute it well. Add the watap (ground masala paste), dry masala powders and remaining whole cooked peas. Let this cook for 10 minutes on a slow flame. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and lime juice.