Monday, October 29, 2018

10 best Food Souvenirs from Goa

Goa on my plate presents the 10 best food souvenirs to take back home from Goa.

Even before I made Goa my home, I was a student studying at the medical college here. That meant taking back food gifts from Goa everytime I went home. and even now , when friends and family visit Goa we love gifting foodie souvenirs to them, food souvenirs instantly transport you back to the place.

With Diwali round the corner, and a lot of travellers visiting Goa, what better way to celebrate than to Gift Food items from Goa? I have curated a list of sweet and savory treats from goa, which bring a slice of Goa to your plates back home.

Notice the Goa Mario Miranda Lampshade, the Mario Miranda Market scene painting on the wall? now bringing Goan flavour, not just to my home, but also Goa themed tee shirt and Goa on my plate cotton shopping bag! 

So what makes a great food souvenir? One that instantly reminds you of the place, so it should be unique to that place, second, it should be something you really enjoyed having on your trip to Goa, so don’t buy things just because they are unique if you don’t like the taste of them, and third, something that travels well and stays fresh for long journeys.

Keeping these in mind, I have made a list of food souvenirs, both common and uncommon, from Goa.
Goa food souvenirs to take back home .

1.       Cashews:
Storage (6 months or more, can refrigerate)
 literally everyone who comes to Goa must return with cashews. Cashews both salted and plain can be used in multiple dishes, the roasted variety stay fresh for many days. Its loved by kids to adults, it can be a nifty snack when you have delayed flights on your trip back from Goa, and pair really well with alcoholic drinks. Cashew shops and ‘cashew depots’ are multiple at all the busstops and touristy spots in Goa, so no dearth of the shops, also many of the other food souvenirs can be picked up there as well.

2.       Bebinca:
Storage (expiry mentioned on the box, can be refrigerated once opened)
This Layered baked dessert made of eggs, flour, jaggery and lots of ghee, is a favourite for tourists and locals alike. Each layer is cooked individually, and a minimum of 7 layers are present in a bebinca. Don’t eat it layer wise though! Slice a piece which has a little of each layer, to feel the different textures of bebinca. An interesting origin story of Bebinca is that it was invented by nuns in Portugal, where they used the egg whites to starch their uniforms and the egg yolks would go to waste. That’s when they came up with bebinca and pasteis de nata, desserts that use up the egg yolks ! serve bebinca with vanilla icecream, and sprinkle with the cashews you bought , and serve to guests back home. and everyone will be transported to Goa!

3.       Port wine:
Storage (can store over a year)
Port wine is not like regular wine. First off it doesn’t have a high alcohol content, infact many don’t even consider them to have any alcohol, its just fermented juice. Its pretty sweet so can be had by anyone , and is pretty cheap at Rs 100 a bottle mostly! What I love to use it in is for cooking though, add it in chicken curry and let it reduce and you have a fuller, richer fruity flavour. Add to any tomato based curry dish I would say, be it keema, or ragout, or mutton, or pasta sauce.

4.       Cafreal Masala:
Storage ( expiry mentioned, store in fridge once opened)
This one is one of the many typical Goan masalas one gets in the state. Cafreal was brought by the Portuguese, from their African colonies. It is green, herby, and is fragrant with spices. It pairs well with potatoes, paneer, chicken and fish and is one of the most versatile pastes. Just smear and bake or fry. It also works well with spinach soups, or spinach curries, and I make it all the time at home, to add oomph to my green Indian curries of coriander and mint.

5.       Feni:
Storage (stores upto a year)
This local liquor made of cashews is interesting, but again not for everyone, because it smells quite strong, and has a fairly high alcohol content. But, take a small souvenir size bottle back. It works well with lemon and fizzy drinks like limca. Also a nice marinade for meats.

6.       Chocolate cake from café central:
Storage ( stays good for a day or two of travel , finish soon)
Reason to add this on the list. First, its pretty famous and well loved amongst locals in goa. Second, its eggless ( for vegetarians), its nut free ( for nut allergies) and is moist and travels well. there have been times we have devoured the entire cake even before our flight took off from goa. Even now, we gift it to our friends and they love it!

7.       Chcocolate fudge cookies from cremaux :
Storage ( expiry mentioned, but stays good upto 10 days or more, can refrigerate, and microwave before consuming , but stays good in airtight container aswell)
There was a time when I thought these fudge chocolate deserved to be Goa’s number one food souvenir above cashews!! Infact this one is a must have , must take, must eat. For every chocoholic out there, you want to take back these for them.

8.chorizo sausage : Goan Pork sausages, that are chunky, packed with loads of spices, and are almost like a pickled version of regular sausages, because they don’t need refrigeration when packaged. They stay good for months, they taste great in a curry, in sausage pulao, I cook it with Jaggery and top it on donuts even! Very versatile, easy to carry back home, quintessentially Goan, makes this on the list of best goan foodie gifts.

9. Rainbow cookies from mog: This one was is for the instagrammers, also for the kids. These rainbow coloured cookies put one instantly in the happy holiday mood. Thay make for pretty pictures, they cost just 100 rs per pretty packaging, last for a month since baking, are a neutral vanilla butter flavour, and are available year round at the bake store in Margao. Have a neice obsessed with unicorns, or a gay couple friend holidaying in Goa? (Goa is the number one Indian destination for Gay couples BTW) get them these.

10. Fish: I know this one is a surprise, but even I was surprised at the number of people packing fish from Goa off to their homes. Reaason? Many Goans live in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, working outside the state. For them , nothing says home like fish. And contrary to belief, fish travels fairly well when frozen, and fresh fish doesn’t smell, also I know of a really good place that does individually frozen fish , so its not stuck to each other, and with the travel time so much reduced by air travel, cooked fish dishes, or fresh frozen fiah are extremely popular food souvenirs from Goa.

With this list, I have tried to bring the local Goan flavour, along with practicalities of gifting, like availability throughout the year, longish expiry, and clean hygienic packaging. Hope this helps. Here are a few more Goa centric Blog posts if you are travelling to Goa.

Diwali Narakasur celebration in Goa

spring Shigmotsav festival in Goa

cafes of Goa

Goa food walking tour

Goa foodie gifts . Hope you had fun reading this post. do share it with your friends and comment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A visit to Kumartuli during Durga Puja, a unique Kolkata experience

Kumartuli , the potters precinct in North Kolkata is where the Gods and Goddesses are created. We all know that Ma Durga comes from Mount Kailash, but it is here in the narrow lanes of Kumartuli, and at the hands of the potters whose last names are ‘pal’ is where she takes shape.
Images of half painted Ma Durgas and potters hands deftly carving out the Goddesses eyes , were images I had often seen and admired on social media as well as magazines. The potters at Kumartuli not only make the idols for the city of Kolkata , but also export the idols to durga Pujos around the world, from Australia to USA, and even to Dubai, almost every NRI Bengali pujo gets its Pujo Protima from Kumartuli.
come , join me on a walk through Kumartuli 

 But, the idols of Ma Durga and her children are made before Durga pujo, so is it still worth while visiting Kumartuli once Durga pujo has begun?

Yes, it is ! Read on to find out how we saw the creators, the craft and the creation , all at Kumartulli, this Durga Pujo.

A brief history of Kumartulli
After the british colonisation of Bengal and India, in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey , Holwell, under the oeders from Directors of the British East India Company, allotted separate districts to the company’s workmen.  Thus, suriparah – place of wine sellers, chuttarparah – place of carpenters, Coomartolly – place for potters. It is this Coomartolly that later became kumartuli or kumartulli.
Mostt of the artisans and workers from these districts dwindled or vanished with the rise of the Marwari settlements and the coming in of Burrabazar. Except for the potters. The potters, who up until then were making clay pots and pans using the clay from the river bed of Hooghly , took to making the idols of Gods and Goddesses for the neighbouring mansions around Kumartulii.
Kumartulli was home to a number of renoened homes during the Bengal renaissance, like Nandram Sen the first collector of Kolkata in 1700, and Gobindram Mitter who had a sprawling house spread over 16 acres.
These famous houses of Kolkata , along with several other ancestral homes, got their Pujo Protimas made by the artisans of Kumartuli, and then many community pujos also supported them, and today the artists and artisans of Kumartuli have a life long association with puja around the world.

the creation and the creator. different avatars of Shakti

Kumartuli is a photographers haven , these large green doors were calling to be photographed, and me in my pink n orange gamcha sari worn the traditional shadharon bengali style couldnt help being photographed.

half finished dieties at Kumartuli

Turn left here, to be transported to an ethereal land of calm amongst the chaos, the potters lane in Kumartuli during Durga Pujo

What you can expect to see at Kumartuli during Durga Pujo
While it is true that Kumartuli is most famous for the Pratimas and the pandals they create for Durga Pujo, they also make the protimas of Lakshmi for Lakshmi Puja which is celebrated in West Bengal 7 days after Saptami. And so you will see half finished idols of Lakshmi, or even completely dressed and decked idols of Lakhsmi depending on which day of Durga Pujo you visit Kumartuli.
We also saw the beginnings of the making of Ma Kali, for the Kali pujo which would be on the night of Diwali. The dynamic Ma Kali idol, complete with a garland of beheaded heads, and a hand dangling around her waist make for eyecatching visuals.
You can also see the artists and workers hard att work, or just catching a siesta . A peep into their world and you see the simple life they lead, among their creations, a two storey house being held up by a half finished idol, or the remnants of discarded pratimas, which didn’t make the cut to the standards of perfection these Kumars put their work to.
Apart from this , Kumartuli, as I said is home to some of the old world rich Bengalis, and just a walk down the many lanes of Kumartuli gives you a glimpse of the glory of yesteryears, the aristocratic charm of Kolkata is best seen here , as the homes are still well preserved . we didn’t have much time to explore because the place is teeming with people, but there are so many lanes and roads and narrow passage ways in this place that it is easy to lose yourself here.
The residents of Kumartulli make idols for the entire city, and for most of the pujos around the world, so you can imagine the idols that their own pujo pandals would have.
We visited two pujo pandals in Kumartulli and the art and ethos of both of them were mesmerising.

idols of Lakshmi, ready for Lokhi pujo, which falls on Sharad purnima, or kojagiri purnima. 

idols of Ma Kali, with her Garland of heads makes for dramatic visula at Kumartuli

Ma Durga on a Boat , one of the Pandal Protimas at Kumartuli

Large eyed South East Asian influences in this Ma Durga Protima at Kumartuli

How to get to Kumartuli
We went by our own car, but taking a taxi or Uber/Ola is the best way since parking is a hassle during the crowded days of pujo. Otherwise, buses and trains go to Kumartuli. The nearest railway station is the Sovabazar Metro. Sovabazar Launch Ghat (alongside the Ganges river) is also close by. Taking a walk to the riverbank is worthwhile, as you'll get to see old Gothic & Victorian style mansions. From there you can get a boat back to central Kolkata. You don’t need special passes to go there, but its best you respect the people who live and work there,so if they ask not to take pictures, don’t. the place was surprisingly clean when we went.
Kumartuli , a unique experience during Durga Pujo

A unique experience

The chaos and cacophony is an integral part of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, but once in Kumartuli, we took a left, and then a sharp right behind a house, and all of a sudden were trasnsported to an ethereal world; where Gods and their creations, idols and their creators lived. It’s quiet here, so quiet that some of the potters were sleeping. While in the pandals we were all jostling for space, here in the potters lanes of Kumartuli we were the only family. The feeling that this is where it all begins, the planning and creation of the idols, for Saraswati puja, for Lakshmi Puja, for Gurga puja and Kali puja, is truly an other worldly experience.

Just outside of the pujo pandal are food stalls selling everything a Bengali foodies heart desires . the foodietrails couldnt end a travel blog post without mentioning food :)

kolkata meetha paan ; must have the foodietrails recommends

phuchka , must have kolkata street food. the foodietrails recommends

cheene badam , peanuts dry roasted over sand. kolkata street food must have

mutton biryani, with a side of potato. kolkata street food must have

egg chicken roll, must have kolkata street food. the foodietrails recommends

chowmein and kochuri, must have street food in Kolkata. the foodietrails recommends.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ghugni recipe #bloggersdurgapujo, a vegetarian Bengali recipe

Ghugni :a step by step pictorial recipe.

ghugni : Durga pujo staple at home

If there is one food I associate with Durga Pujo , other than pujor bhog ofcourse, it is Ghugni.

There are at least five good reasons why Ghugni should be on your menu; it a vegetarian dish, it is made from simple pantry staples like dried white peas, it is super tasty , it’s a great party snack in canapés, it is an authentic Bengali street food dish so you can boast to friends that you know a Bengali dish which doesn’t involve fish.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. I need to tell you why I love ghugni so much.

During Durga Pujo we binge on a lot of non veg. we love to eat out from the numerous stalls, and its an unending menu of kosha mangsho, chicken roll, chicken lollypop, chowmien, and prawn chops.

But, on Ashthami we fast.

And then after pushpanjali prayers, we eat fruits.

And then the rest of the day we eat vegetarian.

That’s the only part my dad has ever been strict about; no non veg on Ashthami. Now , given that the street stalls are all teeming with mouth watering delicacies. It made sense that we eat at home, before we ventured into Pandal hopping on Ashthami.

Thus, came the ghugni eating prior to setting out from home.

We would eat a bowl of ghugni chaat, before we set out for our evening pujo protima outings. For lunch we had bhog, which is always veg, and we were sorted, but for dinner… we always had ghugni.

And that was not the end of it.

On Vijaya Dashami, which is Dussehra in most parts of India, we have guests home after Visarjan. And that day we have lots of amazing food at home, which does include mutton and also an elaborate table of Bengali Mishti’s ranging from rosogulla, to kheer kadam. But we also have Ghugni. Why? Because it pairs really well with indian food, its vegetarian and we might have vegetarian friends over for food, and also because ghugni is an anytime snack. Someone comes home in the afternoon, or early evening, or late in the night, ghugni practically can be had anytime.

That’s not all!

we even had it for people visitingus for Diwali aswell . It has always been our fool proof 'guests dish' for vegetarian guests, and people who love non-veg, relish it too.

Ghugni is a popular street side food as well, and you can get it on your train journeys in the Bengal UP trains.

And that’s why I love it; street food, which is also travel food, which is also festive food, which is also ‘guests at home ‘food. How does one dish go from so many different occasions? How is it so well accepted from the hands of a street side vendor, as well, as from the hands of a homely  mum?

This is the wonder of this simple staple. How to make ghugni you ask ? 

Well, here is the recipe. 

Its pictorial , so just follow along

1.       Take dried white peas/ vatana and soak in water over night.

2.       Boil the overnight soaked peas with a little salt, and a little hing.

3.       Grate one onion, one tomato, and a teaspoon worth of garlic and ginger.

4.       Keep ½ teaspoon of turmeric , red chilli powder, jeera powder, coriander seed powder, garam masala powder. Ready.

5.       Now fry the onion in some oil first.

6.       Then add the ginger garlic paste.

7.       Then add the tomato, only once the onion and ginger garlic are cooked well.

8.       Add all the powder masalas, and cook the onion-tomato paste till it is dangerously deliciously dark.

9.       Then add the creamy boiled peas.

10.   Now add salt to taste

11.   Add pulp of tamarind (soak tamarinds in some hot water) use said water along with the tamarind pulp.

12.   Let cook on low heat, until most of the water evaporates.

13.   You can either serve it quite dry , or a little watery if you plan to have it with chapatti or rice. We generally have it without any accompaniment.
14.   Fry off some slivers of coconut in coconut oil. To add that textural crunch, and milt sweetness of coconuts.

Ghugni is spicy, salty, tangy, and creamy from the boiled peas, and crunchy from the fried coconuts and the toppings, and just served with chopped onion, or crunchy sev, and even pomegranates if you feel like, add roasted peanuts if you feeling like it, squeeze of lime if you don’t mind and extra tang, sprinkle chopped coriander and mint on top to make it look pretty and more herby.
don't hesitate to substitute dry mangoes for the tamarind, or chaat masala, or use pre soaked tinned peas, or coconut flakes instead of pieces, in short, play around, and make this recipe your own.

Ghugni is what will make all your vegetarian dinners a hit, you never again need to worry what to serve your vegetarian friends.

Ghugni : bengali vegetarian dish with white peas.

At home , I started making it for special occasions only. and then it escalated to us having ghugni every week. I am guessing you will be making this every week as well. it's that simple, fast and addictive. 

This year too, like last year, I am celebrating Durga pujo, not just with my family, but my blogging family aswell. Last year we were 4 bloggers participating, and this year we are 19 bloggers strong, sharing Pujo memories, nostalgia, pujo from around the country, fashion, food and everything in between.
Come join us by following the hashtag #bloggersdurgapujo on Fb, twitter, and instagram. and if you havent already to join my bengali language mini crash course by searching #bongtalk on facebook and instagram. :)

List of Participating Bloggers
Dr. Amrita Basu (Misra):
Anupriya Gupta: https:////www.mommytincture
Indrani Ghose:
Kapila Rattan Bhowmik:
Dr. Kuheli Bhattacharya:
Paromita Biswas:
Sayanti Mahapatra:
Shalini Magdel Das:
Shruti Dugar:
Sonia Chatterjee: