Tuesday, July 01, 2008

10 Simple Saraswat Recipes

I found the story of Saraswati, the lost river and the subsequent Brahmin migrations fascinating. It is humbling to know that it was not the mighty Ganga, but Saraswati which was held in high esteem in Vedic times. In the Rig Veda, the mother of all vedas, Ganga is mentioned once, but Saraswati is mentioned at least 60 times. It is extolled as ambitame, naditame, devitame Saraswati.” ("The, finest mother, finest river, finest goddess’ is Saraswati). It was so revered, that it is still worshipped, 5000 years after it disappeared.

Both Sutlej and Yamnua were tributaries of Saraswati. Due to various factors, Sutlej turned west and joined Beas, whereas Yamuna turned east to join the Ganga. As Yamuna brought Saraswati water to Ganges, the place where Yamuna joins Ganga is still worshipped as Triveni Sangamam (the confluence of three rivers, Ganga- Yamuna and Saraswati). Does anyone know if the Sutlej – Beas –Sindhu confluence is equally revered?

Due to the paucity of authentic Saraswat recipes on the Internet, I’ve drawn heavily upon
Rasachandrika, the Bible of Saraswat cuisine.

For more detailed recipes and delightful variations, check out my fellow bloggers below.

Sol Kadi (Raw Kokum Curry with coconut milk) Replace half the water in the Bhinda Kadi above with coconut milk and you have the Sol Kadi. Coconut paste, garlic paste and green chilly paste can be mixed in with Sol Kadi.

Potato Upkari( Stir fried potato with coconut) A variety of boiled vegetables are mixed with grated coconut and stir fried into delicious Upkaris.

Potato Talsani is dry, stir fried potatoes, served as an accompaniment to rice and curry.

Kadgi sukke : (Raw jack fruit curry) Baby jackfruit is boiled and stir fried with a paste of coconut, red chili and tamarind.

Mango Uddamethi is a thick chunky curry where raw mango is cooked with coconut milk, fenugreek and jaggery.

Dali Thoye
(Spiced lentil curry) is a spiced up Tuvar dal curry, much loved in the Konkan.

Here’s what I learnt from Saraswat cuisine.

The combination of sweet and salt works – as demonstrated by the Gujarati cuisine and Saraswat cuisine.

Without understanding the history, it is impossible to understand a cuisine. You need to understand Saraswat history to know why some Brahmins sects in Konkan and Bengal eat fish and why Kashmiri pundits eat meat.

A raita need not always have yogurt in it, as evidenced by the raw mango raita.

The mild bedige chilies can be used to give a deep red colour to curries, without making them hot.

Dried gooseberries can be used as a souring agent in making rasam, as evidenced by the Avala Saru.

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Okay, let me start from the very beginning. 1500 crore years ago, with a Big Bang, the Universe is born. It expands dramatically. Hydrogen forms, contracts under gravity and lights up, forming stars. Some stars explode, dusting space with the building blocks of life. These condense into planets, one of which is Earth. Over time, self replicating molecules appear, multiply and become more complex. They create elaborate survival machines (cells, plants, animals). A variety of lifeforms evolve. Soon, humans arise, discover fire, invent language, agriculture and religion. Civilisations rise and fall. Alexander marches into India. Moguls establish an empire. Britain follows. Independence. Partition. Bloodshed. The license raj is in full sway. I'm born. India struggles to find its place. Liberalisation. The Internet arrives! I move from Tirupur to Chennai. Start a company. Expand into Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. Poof! Dot com bust. Funding dries up. Struggle. Retire. Discover the joy of cooking, giving, friendships and the pleasures of a simple life. Life seems less complicated. Pizza Republic, Pita Bite and Bhojan Express bloom !

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