You know that feeling when you soooo want to eat something, you can already taste it before you have laid your hands on it, but it is so far away that you cannot reach it? Disappointed?
I miss Pao!!
Pao, sometimes called the lifeline of Goa, is a bread that was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese settlers and is by far the best bread I've ever had. Pao, sometimes called Pav, is available almost all through the country, but no one makes it the way it is made in Goa. It has a crusty outside and a chewy crumb; a texture that is just incomparable. Pao is such an integral part of Goan cuisine, that the Government actually subsidizes the cost of Pao.
I've pretty much eaten Pao every single day I lived in Goa. I've bought it for my grandparents when it cost as little as 25 Paise and today, when it costs 20 times more. I still wait for the Poder (local Pao seller) to come on his bicycle fixed with a cane basket in the back, honking his way through the meandering little streets bringing bread to every local man.
Look at this variety of wonderful Pao that I picked up on my recent vacation to Goa.
Just this week, I was in Goa. It was a short 5 day vacation where I met up with family and haunted all our favorite food joints across the state. While Bangalore is cosmopolitan and you pretty much get everything here, except probably the purple yam. I miss those certain somethings, that I took so much for granted when I stayed in Goa - a simple cheesy Mushroom Capsicum sandwich; Gobi Manchurian made exactly how it is supposed to be, fresh and with no food coloring; Chocolate cakes with chocolate cream that are to DIE for; that too sweet, yet perfectly enjoyable Badam Milk that you have to drink standing outside on the road; Samosa which has little pieces of beetroot in it along with the potato; that garlicky Batata Vada and lastly, loads and loads of Pao Bhaji.
As much as I miss that wonderful Pao, I miss the coconut filled Bhaji too. It is pretty much my standard breakfast when I go to Goa. The Goan Pao Bhaji is very different from the Mumbai Pav Bhaji that is made with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. The Goan Pao Bhaji is usually made with some beans and coconut. Sometimes with Mushrooms too.
Goan bhaji is also called Tonak with Alsane Tonak being the popular one around. Alsane or Alsande are red cowpeas. To make Alsane Tonak, these red cowpeas are simmered in a spicy roasted coconut masala.
To make Alsane Tonak, you need to coax the coconut gently to turn golden brown, before you grind it along with spices to make the Tonak gravy. This Alsane Tonak is not a recipe to be rushed, it encompasses the spirit of Goa - Relaxed, Sosegado... This is where you add all your love and patience into the otherwise simple gravy. The darker the color, the better the dish. However, don't burn it, trying to get it dark.
When you go to a restaurant and ask for a "Mixed Bhaji", you will get the Tonak served with a helping of a simple Potato Bhaji on the side. So if the spice gets a bit much, let your next spoonful be the salty turmeric potatoes.
- Mushroom Cafreal - Another famous Goan curry made by cooking mushrooms in a coriander sauce.
- Banana Blossom with White Peas - Dry Goan curry made with banana flower and dried white peas.
- Misal - Spicy gravy made with sprouts from the western coast of India.
Alsane Tonak | Goan Pao Bhaji
Alsane Tonak is a Goan Pao Bhaji curry made by simmering red cowpeas in a spicy roasted coconut gravy.
Recipe Type: Side
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 4-5
1 cup Red Cowpeas, dried
2 cups fresh Coconut, grated
2 Onions, chopped
1 Tbsp Coriander seeds
1 Bay leaf, dried
2-3 dry Red Chillies
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
4-5 Kokum Peels or Marble sized Tamarind
2-3 cloves Garlic
4-5 tsp Oil
Salt to taste
Water as required
Soak the cowpeas overnight or for 7-8 hours.
Drain the water and cook the cowpeas with 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp Salt until done. The cowpeas should not be mushy, they should still have a bite. If using a pressure cooker to cook the peas, keep it for only 1-2 whistle and then release the pressure immediately, else they will overcook.
Drain the water and keep aside. Do not throw out the water, we use it later in the recipe.
Soak the kokum peels or tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water and keep aside.
Heat 3 tsp Oil in a kadhai or pan and add half the onions.
Fry until the onions are translucent.
Now add the grated coconut and on low flame roast until the coconut turns golden brown. Stir occasionally to prevent the coconut from burning. This slow roasting takes time, almost half an hour.
When the coconut turns golden brown, add the cloves, cinnamon, bayleaf, peppercorns and dry red chillies and continue to roast for another 3-4 minutes.
Allow to cool, then add the turmeric powder and the water in which the Kokum or Tamarind was soaked and grind to a fine paste.
Crush the ginger and garlic into a coarse paste.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the onions.
Fry until translucent. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the ground coconut masala and mix well.
Add the cooked cowpeas along with 0.75 cup water in which it was cooked.
Add salt if required.
Allow it to come to a boil, then cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Serve hot along with Goan Pao or bread.