Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas in Goa

Although Jesus was not born on Christmas, and probably not even in the wintertime, Goa, along with the rest of the Christian world, celebrates his birthday on December 25th. It may seem a little late for a Christma post, but in Goa Christmas celebrations continue until the end of winter break in the begining of January. In the USA christmas time starts in the begining of December and ends shortly after Dec 25, but here, Christmas celebrations start a few days before Dec 25. Many Xmas parties are after Dec 25th in Goa.Christmas is a very festive time in Goa that brings many special dishes to the table. Sans rival is a Goan cake that makes many appearances during the holiday season. It is a cashew cake with sugar icing. The baker, Raju, at Nostalgia in south Goa baked about 20 sans rival cakes in two days, and each cake has about five layers. Bebinca is another layer cake that takes about 6 hours to cook. Talk about slow food. The coconut batter is baked one layer at a time with a little ghee between each layer until there are 8 to 12 layers. the resulting cake becomes a dark translucent color with layers that peel apart. Everyone has there own way of eating bebinca. Another festive Goan classic that Chef Fernando and his team creates for the Christmas season is Dedos De Dama, cashew frangipane coated in sugar caramel. For the Goan parties last week we cut a watermellon in half and stick the dedos de dama (maiden's fingers) onto decorated skewers, which are then dipped into hot caramel (like making crouquembouche) then the skewers are stuck into the watermellon, making a funky spiked dome. Guests pull a stick from the watermellon and enjoy the dedos de dama like lolypops.I also enjoyed making Neuros with the hardcore Goan chefs at Nostalgia. Neuros are addictive sweets that are made for Christmas in Goa. They are fried pastries like empanadas that are filled with semolina and coconut. The first Neuro is shaped into a cross to bless the rest of the batch which are shaped like half moons using a special spoon that has a fluted pastry wheel at one end and a spoon for the filling on the other end. I found some of these spoons in Mapsa for 15 rupees each.

Tune: Spoon by Cut Chemist

Tune: Spoonful Blues by Charley Patton

Vasco de Gama arrived in Goa in 1498 to set up a Portuguese colony to control the spice trade since the land routes were cut off by the Ottoman Dynasty. Half a century later the Christian Missionary, St. Francis Xavier, tried to start an inquisition in Goa. The Goan Inquisition started about a decade after his death. His body (most of it) is in a glass couffin in Old Goa at the Basilica of Bom Jésus. It has resisted decay and they say that his fingernails continue to grow. Every ten years his body is displayed to the public and people make a pilgramige to see his corpse.One year a lady from bombay bit off a piece of his fingernail and brought it back to Bombay with her, but when her family found out they made her return it. St Francis Xavier's right arm was sent to the main Jesuit church in Rome where it is on display. His right hand was the hand he used to bless and baptize his converts.

Tune: I Had Me Hands In Me Pocket at the Time by George Formby Senior who was born one hundred years before I was. He colapsed durring the run of a Christmas performance which led to his death a few months later.

Tune: Hands of Fate by Lakim Shabazz

Many Jews who fled the Iberian Inquisition landed in Goa. The Hindu rulers of Kerala helped many Jews escape the Goan Inquisition by allowing them to move to Cochin. They were soon chased out by the Goan Inquisition. By the end of the 16th century, many Hindu Goans had converted to Christianity. It became illegal for Hindus to practice in public, and most temples were destroyed. The Portuguse built churches all over Goa. They outlawed many soulcocina staples, like Hindu instruments, food, and paan.
My computer is down, so my gospel and Jesus tribute mixes are not available. (anyone with the mixes can email them to me please). So for now, I offer some great tunes about Jesus that I have collected from some of my favorite audioblogs like Moistworks and Wayne and Wax.

Tune: Jesus Gave Me Water by The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi

Tune: Me and Jesus the Pimp in a "79 Granada Last Night by The Coup

Tune: I Heard The News (Jesus is Coming Again) by Sister Wynona Carr

Tune: Sexy Jesus by Wayne & Wax

Under the Inquisition, Hindu names were also banned. People would take the name of the priest who christianed or baptised them.
Tune: Baptise Me in Wine by Screamin' Jay Hawkins

The Missionaries did allow the recently converted Goans to keep the tradition of the caste system, which convieniently helped to keep control of the people. In 1623 the Pope, Gregory XV passed a decree that allowed all converted Hindus to keep the caste system.Another aspect of Portuguese culture that has survived in Goa is the love of booze. These kids (above) are lined up outside the Viva Liquor Shop in Panjim on Christmas day.Another part of Portuguese culture that lives on in Goa is the Siesta. These kids decided to stay awake during siesta time near the Panjim market on Christmas day while some of the ladies that sell vegetables at the market decided to take a cat nap.

There were some Hindu Brahmins that resisted the Portuguese rule that occupied the islands of Divar and Chorao, the two largest islands on the Mandovi River. They gaurded the islands against Portuguese invasion and even raided some of the Portuguese garrisons along the river. The Indo-Portuguese monk, Fr. José Custódio de Faria, (AKA Abbé Faria) was one of the leaders of a revolt against Portuguese rule in Goa in the Conspiracy Of The Pintos in 1787. Abbé Faria was one of the pioneers of the scientific study of hypnotism.

Tune: The Hypnotic by The Roots

I can't share the recipe for Chef Fernandos nueros, which are filled with roasted semolina and coconut and fragrant with cardamon. But I will share another popular versian of the Christmass Nuero. The dough for the outer crust is made from boiled sweet potatoes. This recipe comes from a book of Goan Saraswat Hindu recipes called Ishtann that I picked up in Goa.

Sweet Potato Nueros

4-5 sweet potatoes, boiled then cooled to room temp
1 1/4 cup grated coconut
3/4 cup Goan jaggery (jaggery from coconut palm)
8-10 cashewnuts, crushed
a pinch of cardamom powder
salt to taste

Put potatoes in a stock pot, cover with enough water and cook until done (they should be mushy to the touch). Drain and let cool.

Mix grated coconut, cashew pieces, salt and cardamom powder. Add jaggery and cook on moderate heat until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Keep aside.

Peel the potatoes, mash them and form a dough. Flatten into circles with your fingers. Spoon a little filling on one side and fold over into a crescent. Make ridges with a fork, press lightly and keep aside.

Heat a griddle on moderate heat. Fry the nuero using ghee until GBD. Turn over gently and fry on the other side.
Drizzle with ghee and serve hot.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Palmiers from a Soul Ranchikud

This is a real soul cocina, that's soul kitchen, or soul rasoi in Hindi, or in Konkani soul ranchikud. Ranchi means to cook, kud means room. Jila Bakery in Raia, South Goa near Margao has a real soul ranchikud. They make everything by hand, the old fashioned way with real ingredients. No commercial mixes, no dough sheeters, no kitchen aid mixers, no hobart mixers, no thermometers, no substitutes, no joke.Everything is made by hand, as you can see from the photos of these two happy bakers who happen to be brothers. The pots are all handmade copper pots that the family made. They built their own wood burning, coal oven. There are no temperature gauges, they know when the temperature is right for there eclaires, macaroons (melt aways), and palmiers. They cook sugar for fondant by eye. The gas and electric company came to the bakery to ask how they could provide so many tastey treats to Goan households and restaurants with such a low energy bill. The bakers showed them their tools. Wooden spoons, copper pots, hand whisks, and a brick wood fired oven. Electricity is only used for a few fans and lightbulbs in the bakery and a few common electrical things in the home part of the home-bakery. The bakery was started 30 years ago by a trained and accomplished baker and his family. The baker was a top pastry chef at the Taj Hotel in Bombay before returning to Goa to open his shop, Jila bakery. When the chef passed away his sons continued to carry on the tradition with the same love and skill. I just happened to find Jila bakery on my way to meet with the famous Goan Chef Fernando of Nostalgia Restaurant, also in Raia, South Goa. I stopped, on my way to Nostalgia, at a jam shop to see if I could learn how they make and package the jams. I was hoping for another lesson in jams and canning to add to what I learned last year at June Taylor's marmelade class, where we learned to extract pectin from lemons. Or maybe pick up some canning secrets to add to what I have learned with Sara Ko. Unfortunately, they didn't let me in behind the scenes (the owner was not there), but they directed me to "Goa's most famous bakery", which was just around the corner on a peaceful road behind some flowering trees. I was welcomed in as soon as I arrived and the lady who greeted me gave me some samples of some sweets. They were happy to show me the bakery and they even showed me how to make their famous palmiers. I made a little video of the palmier demo with Konkani music for the soundtrack. One of the two brothers is also a musician and he gives music lessons at the home bakery. They showed me a video of a news piece about Goan food that was hosted by legendary cartoonist and comedian Mario Miranda. Mario visited the bakery on the show and interviewed the family. He even got some footage of the musician brother teaching violin. I do not remember the bakers'names, but I will be bake to Jila bakery soon. Slow cooking in Goa.
Video: Palmier Demo at Jila BakeryA Soulcocina Motion Picture Presentation

Tune: bakershop Boogie by Willie Nix

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mapusa Market

The Friday market in Mapusa is the best market I have found in Goa. The Panjim Market is great for everyday shopping, but the Mapusa market has everything the Panjim market has and more. The market also caters to farmers with agricultural products like seeds and farm tools. There is lots of dried fish, dried shrimp, makarel, and Bombay duck (bombil or bummalo). The first time I tried Bombay duck was when Major Marfatia took us to a Parsi restaurant last year in Mumbai called Britanias. Ever since then, Bombay duck has been my favorite lizardfish. You can also find fresh Bombay duck at the Mapusa market, as well as pomfret, rockfish, kingfish, clams, and lots of other fresh and dried seafood.
The long thin dried fish on the left is Bombay duck
Tune: Bombay duck by The Ventures

Mapusa comes from the Konkani words maap, meaning "measurement", and sa, meaning "to fill". The market dates back to as early as 1850. There are some curious antique shoppes near the market. I saw some old gramaphones for sale so I started my hunt for old Konkani and Hindi records. There was one shopkeeper that kept some old records in a pile on the ground under an antique cabinet. They were Portuguese and Hindi records that seemed interesting (some Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar 78's) but they were all scratched and cracked. The Indian climate really takes its toll on old records. Although I didn't score any film scores on vinyl in Mapusa, I did get some great tracks back at home in Dona Paula. Instead of the old fashioned way, these songs came to me via bluetooth from a friend's cell phone to my laptop. Cell phones are used in India even more than in the US, if you can believe that. SMS (text message) is one of the most common forms of communication in India. So here are some Hindi film classics that were bluetoothed to my computer.

Tune: Khoya Khoya Chaand by Mohammed Rafi

Tune: Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si by Kishore Kumar

The best bread in Goa is baked the old fashioned way. Without any preservatives or dough conditioners. Artisian pao is everywhere in Goa and is prefered to the commercially packaged bread. There are many pao bakeries scattered across Goa and guys ride around on bicycles with big baskets selling poa door to door and on the street. There are a few bakeries that bring their fresh baked goods to the Mapusa market.

More dried fish.
Kokum and tamarind (two ingredients in Ambot Tik.

Avacados in India are much larger than the hass avacados we eat in California. They are even bigger than the Florida avacados. Quiet frankly I have never tasted an avacado in India (yet) that was nearly as good as any avacado I have tried in US or Mexico. This guy said these avacados came from Tamil Nadu.

here is some Konkani music from the 1960's and 70's

Tune: Cathrina by Helen D'Cruz and Henry D'Soaza

Tune: Corun Cantaram by Lorna

Tune: Sezari by Helen D'Cruz and Henry D'Soaza

Tune: sorga Rajeant also by Lorna

Tune: Swapan Go Fantyechem by Hemant kumar and Helen D'Cruz

Tune: Taxiwala by Jerome Desouza and chorus

Tune: Yeo Baile Yeo also by Lorna

Tune: Nach maga nach by Jerome Desouza and Lourdes Colaco
Tune: Love Mi Hafi Get (Nannygoat) by Cutty Rands and Beres Hammond
The easygoan lifestyle reminds me of the caribbean. Goat is used in many Indian kitchens, and it is often served on festive occassions. After slavery was abolished in Jamaica in the 1830's Indian and Chinese workers were brought to the island to work the sugar cane fields under the indentured labor system. The India laborers brought the recipe for goat curry to Jamaica where it is now a popular festive dish, they also brought ganja and dreadlocks.
Tune: Dreadlocks inna tenament by Jacob Miller
You can see young Jacob Miller sing this song in the film The Rockers You can also see him pull a knife on a guy over a chicken leg in the film. If it was Goan chicken cafreal, I would have done the same thing.