It is that time of year again — thousands of people from all over the country will be flocking to Goa. Great weather, lovely beaches, beautiful resorts and of course mouth-watering food. Having relatives in Goa, I have the pleasure of enjoying not just beach and resorts, but an entertaining Goan Diwali. Dancing demons on the streets accompanied with the festive delicacy – fau. In Pune it is known as pohe, in the North poha, fau is the Konkani word for flattened rice, a staple throughout India.What’s so special about this dish that is found in every street corner, canteen and home – a food that, let’s face it – is given little thought. Poha is versatile, hearty and it is bland enough to make dozens recipes. In Goa five different types of fau are made for Diwali – each one of the five is delicious, catering to our varied tastebuds – sweet, spicy, a mixture of the two, and then a cooling bland one to help with digestion. This custom is practiced during Diwali by Hindu Goan Konkanis or GSBs(Gowd Saraswat Brahmins) to honor Lord Krishna — fau was his Krishna’s favourite food.
The second day of Diwali is the day that Lord Krishna slayed the demon Narkasur and Narka Chaturdashi, the Goan celebration of good over evil is observed on this day. If you have been to Goa during Diwali you might have noticed the effigies of Narkasur being paraded in the street. There are large replicas roaming every neighbourhood – similar to our local Ganpathi mandals. The parade of the Narkasur is ended with a bang – literally. There are firecrackers inside the effigies and the demon is burnt as the crackers burst. Incidentally, Lord Krishna then smeared his entire body with the demon’s blood. On returning home, grand preparations were made for a bath to cleanse the blood and hence we have the abyana snan or traditional oil bath early in the morning as well.
After the abyang snan, karit, a small bitter fruit which grown on the vines of every household in Goa is crushed by pressing it under the large toe of the foot, signifying the killing of the demon Narkasura on Diwali day. Everyone must have a small taste of it, children run to avoid it, but they know that eventually they will be caught. Some say pungent karit is eaten so that you experience some bitterness. Having some hardships(bitterness) in life makes you appreciate the sweetness or all the good things that life has to offer. After tasting the karit comes the delicious fau.
The five fau dishes include:
Rosathle Fau – this sweet poha has only a few ingredients, jaggery or liquid gur, coconut milk, cardamom powder and flattened fav(the type used to make chewda). The sweetness melts in your mouth but the heartiness of the pohas linger on.
Dhayathle Fau — Fau is filling and the food of choice for travellers. This is why Sudama had carried it while taking his long and arduous journey to meet his old friend Krishna. Simple, substantial, and long lasting, it is the food item GSBs prefer to take on a long train journey as well.
Kalayile Fau – “kalayile” means mixed in Konkani, specifically by hand. The coconut, jaggery, and a masala especially made for this poha, is carefully mixed by hand. The taste is a mixture of spicy and sweet. This is also known as “thikshe fau” or spicy poha as there is fiery red chili powder that comes from Karnataka and some with even more fiery tongues will add finely cut green chilies on top. The jaggery gives a hint of sweetness balancing the flavours just perfectly.
Dudhathle Fau – poha mixed with milk. This fau is bland and a good neutralizer if you have had too much of the kalayile fau(spicy poha). This is purposely left bland so that individuals can add their choice of sweetener such as liquid gur or sugar. Or just plain salt can be added to the dish.
Batate Fau – this potato poha is very different from the Puneri kandha pohe. Onions cannot be eaten during breakfast on this religious day and the tadka is a typical Konkani one using a tadka of mustard seeds, curry leaves, urad dal, hing, and both red and green chilies.
Each household has a other variations of pau. Some mix it with solkadi, or a ginger-jaggery combination. There are many combinations, but the rosathle fau and dudhathle fau are constant, and required for Diwali. Poha is flattened before the rice is entirely processed so it is healthier than regular white rice. It has the capacity to absorb lots of water when it is soaked, so when it is cooked, it leaves your stomach feeling full. You won’t feel hunger pangs too soon. To accompany this breakfast is vatana usal and pav(white peas subzi and bread). You are quite full after eating such a heavy breakfast, but somehow by lunch there is always some appetite for the bangda hooman(mackerel curry)and rice that is also made in each household on that day.
If you are missing Goa this year you can get a taste of it by trying these dishes at home.
1 cup poha(the type that is used for kande poha)
1 ½ cups fresh extracted coconut milk
2tsp jaggery(liquefy in a spoon of water) or liquid gur
1 tsp cardamom powder
Wash poha and squeeze out water immediately. Add remaining ingredients. You can make this as thick or thin and as sweet as you like. If you put this in the fridge it will harden so be prepared to add more coconut milk later.
Kalayile Fau Ingredients:
1 cup Poha (the thin type that is used for chewda)
½ cup fresh coconut
1 tsp jaggery
2 tsp fau powder masala
Method: Dissolve jaggery in 1-2 tea spn water. Add salt, coconut and masala powder and mix well with hand. Now add poha and mix.
Fau masala Ingredients:
½ cup dhania seeds
¼ cup soamp
¼ cup jeera
1 inch dalchini
Method: Dry roasted the ingredients except chili powder slowly and grind in mixer. Measure the powder and add same amount of chili powder to it and mix again through mixer.
Potato Fau Ingredients:
1 cup poha
A pinch hing
1/4 cup potato cut into small pieces
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 green chillies, split
1/2 tsp sugar
A pinch turmeric
2 tsp oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt 1 tbsp grated coconut(optional) 1 tbsp cut coriander leaves(optional)
Method: Wash poha and drain water. Keep it aside. Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they start popping, add curry leaves, green chillies. Fry for around 30 seconds. Add potato pieces and turmeric. Sprinkle some water, cover and cook till potatoes become soft. Now add sugar, salt, hing and poha. Mix well. Fry for 1-2 mins on a medium flame. Add coconut and coriander leaves. Mix well and remove from flame. Squeeze lemon juice before serving.
Published in Pune Mirror, October 24, 2011