It is a known fact that Goans are mainly fish-eaters as it is a part of our staple diet. But, for some days, especially during the holy month of Shravan, many who observe this month abstain from eating fish, meat and eggs. Not only that, some turn completely vegetarian as they stay away from onion and garlic, too.
This does not mean that it limits their food choices as Goan vegetarian food is quite vast, and also changes according to a place, community, etc.
There are many traditional dishes, which are commonly made during the Shravan month, especially during the Shravan Aaitar or Shravan Sunday.
On Sundays, rice and jaggery-based dishes are made as an offering during the four Sundays of this month.
“On the first Sunday, mutke or mutli are prepared. These are steamed oval-shaped balls, made from rice paste, and stuffed with coconut and jaggery. On the second Sunday, patolyos are made, and this is a steamed rice paste dish containing jaggery and coconut stuffing. Patolyos are wrapped in turmeric leaves, which give a distinct aroma to the dish. This dish is also made during Nagpanchami festival. On the third Sunday, a khichdi-like dish, known as Uphar, is made; and on fourth Sunday, rice pancakes are made,” says Goan food enthusiast, Anjana Amonkar.
She also maintains that there are variations in these preparations in North and South Goa. In South Goa, on the last Sunday, there is a tradition of making wheet (an idli-like dish where the batter is steamed in jackfruit leaves) along with coconut juice which is sweetened with jaggery.
Along with these special dishes which are part of the Shravan offering, many Goan Hindus cook only vegetarian food at home at this time of the year.
Some remain vegetarian till the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and switch to non-vegetarian meals after the Chaturthi festivities are over.
Nowadays, many restaurants offer Shravan thalis as these are quite the crowd pullers. Panjim-based Kokni Kanteen restaurant is one such place which is known for its traditional, home-style Goan food.
Owner of Kokni Kanteen, Girish Desai, informs that on the first Monday of Shravan, out of all the thalis sold (they offer fish thali, vegetarian thali and Shravan thali), around 38 per cent were Shravan thalis. It is literally a crowd puller, as it is relished by Goans and tourists alike.
“For Shravan thali, we usually serve traditional Goan dishes like alsyanache tonak without onion, chanyanche tonak without onions, varan, rice, phodi (potato/banana/bhindi fritters), valachi bhaji, maskaji bhaji, aamadyachi uddamethi, ross, etc. For the sweet dish, we have nachnyache satva. Also, our menu changes every time as we use seasonal and local produce. So, if we get fresh vegetable on that day, then we make a dish based on that,” says Girish.
The restaurant serves Shravan thali on Mondays and Thursdays as Girish maintains that these two days are observed more religiously.
The major difference between the Shravan thali and the usual vegetarian thali is that onions and garlic are not used. He also adds that, incidentally, most of Goan vegetarian food is mostly vegan as milk, or milk products are not used, and they are heavy on coconut and coconut milk, which makes Goan vegetarian thalis quite distinct.
The month of Shravan is a great way to know and understand the Goan vegetarian meal which is full of flavour, local produce and innovative dishes, which makes this month even more special.