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What’s cooking for iftar: Steamed rice cake from Lakshadweep

A recipe for a coconut-filled delicacy and more food stories from the islands

(from left) Fenvarabondi; a stew named Sannathu. (Photos: Screenshots from the YouTube channel FoodieMesu)
(from left) Fenvarabondi; a stew named Sannathu. (Photos: Screenshots from the YouTube channel FoodieMesu)

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Rice, coconut and tuna are the three mainstays in a kitchen from the archipelago of Lakshadweep. Whether it is everyday meals or celebratory feasts, these ingredients never leave the plate. It is not surprising then that an iftar menu will feature them in a variety of dishes.

Sukhaina Moosa hails from Lakshadweep, and now stays in Kochi. In the pandemic, she started the YouTube food channel FoodieMesu. In January, she opened a food take-away outlet in the Kaloor area of the coastal city with ingredients sourced from her ancestral home in Minicoy, Lakshadweep.

In the archipelago, 96.5% of the population, approximately 70,000,is Muslim. They break the day’s fast with snacks containing fish. It’s a far cry from the mutton or chicken kebabs, tikkis and samosas which have become synonymous with iftar snacks in metros such as Hyderabad, Lucknow and Delhi.

Moosa shares fish is integral to daal pakodas, onion pakodas and cutlets. Their snack plate is enlivened with colourful china grass. These are washed down with drinks such as isabgol with rose water and gulkand, rose milk and sarbats in flavours such as rose, pista, strawberry and orange.

A small meal follows with dishes like maas-huni bai (dried fish with grated coconut and soft boiled rice), sannathu and kirufoli. “Sannathu is a stew of rooty vegetables with chunks of tuna, spiced with ajwain which is believed to tackle gastric issues after a full-day of fasting. It is accompanied by tender coconut crepes known as kirufoli,” she informs. The rice dish, maas-huni bai, is paired with the umami-rich fish sauce rihakuru. Moosa is passionate about this treasured sauce. It’s cooked for almost a month on a slow woodfire and tuna chunks layered with sea water and fresh water until it acquires a blackish hue. During this time, the whole thing goes through various stages of processing and can be stored for years.

The final course for iftar is a spread of sweetish rice-coconut preparations with a kick of spice. There is a sweet treat, fenvarabondi, steamed in banana leaves, which is most popular. Another specialty is gulagan which is rice flour mixed with tender coconut, flavoured with garam masala and caramelised onion, and rolled into laddoos. There's a simple dessert named modelangan which is tender coconut sweetened with coconut sugar and speckled with caramelised onion. She says, “The feasting goes on till the wee hours of the morning."

Moosa shares the recipe of fenvarabondi in this video:

Also read | Why Lakshadweep is an archipelago in climate crisis

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