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Vegetarian Hindu Fare in Goa

A raw mango ud-da-methi


Newsflash: Not Every Goan Loves Meat And here are some (unusual) recipes to prove it

Dr Shah couldn’t believe that Goan food could be made without something that has a tail, price without onions or garlic. Like the Jain cuisine, Goans too have recipes that are sattvic or fit to be served to the Gods. For some reason, a number of Hindu Gods don’t like non-vegetarian food and for some other inexplicable reason, bulbs that grow underground aren’t considered ‘pure’ because they have ‘life’ in them. But so do sprouts which are relished. In an already complicated social set up, we have sub-complications when it comes to caste, dialects and food. In Goa, Christians add salt to the rice when it’s cooking; Hindus don’t. The former use vinegar to add sourness and tang to a gravy, Hindus prefer tamarind pulp or kokum.

Unless you’re going for a Saraswat food festival or someone’s home, you are unlikely to find the following recipes/dishes on any menu.

First, a raw mango ud-da-methi.Peel a medium sized raw mango, remove the seed, chop into little squares, sprinkle salt over them and keep aside. Finely grind 2 cups grated coconut, 2 tsps chilli powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder, a tbsp. of tamarind paste and 12 peppercorns.  Heat a tbsp. of (preferably coconut) oil till it smokes. Then add a tsp each of mustard seeds, urad dal (split black gram without the skin) and fenugreek (methi) seeds. When the dal turns brown, add a pinch of heeng (asafoetida) and immediately pour into it the ground masala, salt and jaggery to taste, three cups of water and the mango bits. Boil for 3-4 minutes and serve hot with rice.

Next, a stew called khatkhatem.  Chop into 1-2” pieces and keep ready a cupful of each: red pumpkin, raw papaya, banana, drumstick, raw jackfruit and white radish/turnip, yam (suran, colocasia root). If you have an ingredient or two less, don’t panic, either do without it or replace with something similar. But no cauliflowers, peas, broccoli or carrots. Or cabbages, spinach and the likes. Cook and mash ¼ cup of toor dal. Add to the dal 4 cups of water. First add and cook the hard vegetables: jackfruit, yam and radish. Then add the other vegetables. Cook them with salt until they are soft but retaining their shape.  Whilst they’re cooking, grind together finely 2 and ½ cups grated coconut, a tsp of turmeric, 1 tbsp of chilli powder and some tamarind paste. Lastly, add to this masala  4-5 lightly crushed teffla (this strong smelling spice is commonly used on the west coast and is easily available with hawkers who squat outside markets and in villages). Add a dash of jaggery for sweetness, give it a good boil and stir and serve immediately. This dish is not dry. It goes well with rice/bread/chapatti.


The third vegetarian dish with no onions and no garlic is a simple one, made with the lowly but tasty and nutritious and easily available red pumpkin. Goa doesn’t celebrate Halloween. The inexpensive pumpkin is unjustly looked down upon. Try this recipe and you’ll see why: take a slice (approx. 300 gms) of bright orange pumpkin, remove its seeds (you can dry them and use elsewhere) and its skin. Cut the flesh into ½” bits, put it in a vessel with a fistful of freshly grated coconut, a tbsp. of finely ground ginger, ½ tsp of crushed jeera (cumin seeds), salt and green chillies to taste and cook it until tender with very little water. Garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander leaves. If you want to convert this into a raita or yoghurt-based salad, beat up a cupful of curd, cool the pumpkin and mix it all up.

Whoever said Goans can’t, don’t, won’t eat anything that’s plucked hasn’t met my grandmother. Ok, she’s been gone a long time, but my mother and now my cousins and I enjoy our ‘pure’ vegetarian food as much as we relish the fried fish, pork chops and beef steaks (blasphemy that I should even mention this, but truth must prevail) that are often served in our platters.

So hark ye who believe that the world and humankind will be saved by everyone turning to healthy, vegetarian, vegan, organic food, turn to Goan cuisine, you won’t miss flesh again.