Friday, July 6, 2012

The Konkani Saraswat Cookbook-A Review & an Interview

When I started cooking on my own after marriage,I had a small notebook with me in which I had jotted down recipes neatly indexed into Breakfast dishes,Lunch dishes,curries etc.But as and when I cooked,I invariably called up amma or my ma-in-law when I had any doubts(which was quite often!).My Vanni suggested I get myself a book written by Jaya Shenoy which was nothing short of a Konkani cooking Bible.

I was amused by the variety of dishes in our own cuisine which I was unaware of.As and when I cooked my way through the book,I felt happy and content trying out new dishes and mastering them.
I heard about The Konkani Saraswat Cookbook from a friend who was a non-konkani and had tried many recipes from the book with success.I purchased this book just out of curiosity but the book is much more than a simple cookbook.

Firstly,I would regard this as a cookbook with precision.When it comes to recipes which we make on a regular basis,the contents are usually eye-balled and it is tough when you have to give precise measures while sharing recipes.The recipes I share on this blog are usually eye-balled first,then I make it again by measuring the ingredients and noting the cooking time,so coming up with a book with the same is no simple task.
Konkani Saraswat Cookbook 
Content wise,there is a lot of variety and as the author mentions,Konkani cooking has a whole-earth approach as most of the recipes calls for ingredients such as root-vegetables and greens of every kind.Even peels of vegetables are made use of in stir-fries and curries.

Many recipes are what I cook on a daily basis but there are so many more which I have not even heard of.For example Zonnale Usli is a recipe for Sweet corn upma and it is a traditional recipe made during the times when peeling the corn cob was a tedious job.Also featured is a recipe for Bachanga Polo-Watermelon rind dosa and Chanbure Polo-Puffed rice dosa.
Have you heard of Purnpole saar?That is a rasam made with Purnpole aka Boli,amusing no?Equally amusing is Amsata Upkari which is a stir fry made with dried mango.

The book starts with the breakfast section,rice recipes,side-dishes and accompaniments,vegetable dishes,dry beans and pulses and much more.I found the Dabbe Khaan(savory foods)and the Home remedies section particularly interesting.There are detailed recipes for making Pappads and Vadis from scratch too.

There is a Seafood section too which features a handful recipes from the author's close family and friends circle.Also featured is a recipe for a Quick Eggless Chocolate cake which brought a chuckle to my face-added benefits I say!
The pictures,though minimal are quite appealing too-my favorite being the Surnali pic,which I'd be making and posting on the blog soon.


Here's a small chit-chat with the author Asha S Philar.
  • Hello Asha ji,tell us something about yourself-
I  was born in Bangalore, India. After graduating in Commerce, I worked briefly for a Finance Corporate and moved to Surathkal after my marriage to Dr.Satish Philar, a Senior Faculty of the National Institute Of Technology Karnataka ( earlier known as the Karnataka Regional Engineering 
College ) Surathkal.
We live in Bangalore and periodically in the US, to visit our sons Tarun and Nikhil and their wives Aparna and Shantal. We have four doting grandchildren--Milind,Nidhi,Trisha and Shriya.

My other hobbies include Music, sewing, painting and writing on varied topics in my Blog:
  • Who or what inspired you in cooking?
My early interests in cooking were inspired by my mother Sushila Aroor and my sister-in-law Padmini Aroor. This was further enriched after marriage under the tutelage of my mother-in-law,Sumathi Philar who guided in the intricacies of traditional food making and extended the horizons beyond food as a 
kitchen-bound activity.

The persons who inspired me to write this Book are my brother, Prakash Aroor and my bhabi, Usha. 
  • How did The Konkani Saraswat Cuisine book come about? 
My two inspirers, Prakash and Usha have helped me select, write and edit the recipes in their entirety. I began with listing recipes and others added to the list which was truly impressive as it grew! Many people supported me in the initial task of selecting, classifying and refining the recipes. I particularly want to mention my mother-in-law Sumathi Philar, my sister-in-law Padmini 
Aroor and my sister Usha Dhareshwar, and many other relatives and friends. My husband Satish has been a constant source of support and ideas as he too is knowledgeable about food making.

Our aim was to present the range of Konkani Saraswat cuisine as comprehensively as possible. We also decided to choose traditional and authentic recipes, as close as possible to the methods of the older 
generations. We knew with these ‘classic’ recipes, users of the cookbook could build in their own modern variations. Some of these variations are mentioned in the after-notes to the recipes.People love to talk about their favorite food. As a result, during many of the conversations,many recipes were added along with some rare and ‘lost’ recipes for example, Kirla Mooli made with bamboo shoot.As I started to write the recipes for the book, this process continued right until the end.I remember, some recipes were added just before we went to print!
  • Is there any special dish in the book which is your family favorite?
Special dish which is the Family Favourite...well there will be a long list!! Any food prepared with precision and love can be called a favourite. Anyway to name a few: Surnalis from Breakfast to Spicy pathrado and Simple Lemon saar for Lunch.Phenoris and Sanjeera to Tengodla and Chaklies..the list is 
  • How long did it take you to write the book and what experience did you endure in the process?
How long I took to write the book...broadly speaking a little less than six months....but writing the Book was a thrilling experience. There were many interesting challenges,namely the gathering of a range of recipes sorting them to traditional and authentic  etc... 

All in all it was a wonderful experience as we took the Book forward, we discovered that KONKANI SARASWAT Food has a whole-earth' approach with its use of vegetables, roots, shoots leaves, pulses and grain.
  • Is there a second book in the offing?
My next cookbook...I have yet to think about it.
  • Do you read food blogs?What do you think about food blogs,do you think it means free-recipe sharing or more than that?
Food Blogs...I do read a few Food blogs and find them very interesting. It is definetly more than a recipe-sharing concept. I appreciate the bloggers' keen interest in presenting their culinary interest in a very sophisticated way!! Food photography has reached newer dimensions! 
  • Any last words of advice-
With the availibility and popularity of different cuisines in India or any where in the world,the younger generation is not very eager to try any Indian food...My advice to young parents is to inculcate the habit of cooking and eating simple food at home. There is so much range and variety that children can never get bored. Slip in food that is bound to be liked such as phodis or ambodes. Serve the food appetizingly dressed and in attractive bowls, or in a special way which makes it look unique. 

Use familiar names at first, for example, call a tambli a soup and a kosambari a salad. Serve small quantities at first, then step up the portions as you go on. I find that it helps to make at least one 
Konkani dish along with other food. A tip for people with demanding careers,—plan a menu for a full week. Involve the older children in helping and working with you as a team.Learning begins at this 
stage! I find that kids always relish food made with love.

We hope the recipes will serve as a guide and readers will enjoy using this Book.
Though I have only tried one recipe from the book so far,the cuisine is my own so I have made at least more than 50% of the dishes from the book.Here is a recipe I tried,mainly because I was intrigued by the strange name-Batate High Jump.Baby potatoes cooked in a spicy coconut masala with a garlic seasoning.

Bookmarked recipes to try - 

  • Vattano ani Kauliflowera Bhaat - Rice with Cauliflower and Green Peas
  • Chanbure Pole- Puffed rice dosa
  • Dudda Pitiye Gulab Jamun - Gulab Jamun made with Milk Powder
  • Chocoleta Khadi - Chocolate Fudge


  1. Thanks for sharing about this book Divya. I am a big fan of Konkani and Catholic cooking. Especially veg dishes are so simple yet so so tasty.

  2. Hi Divya,
    Thank you for posting details about this cookbook.
    I too have a copy of Jaya V. Shenoy cookbook which has helped me out a lot. I should also check out the Konkani Saraswat Cookbook too.

    I love the recipe you have posted here of Jumping Potatoes. A very easy and yummy dish to make!

    Always a pleasure to read your blog and check out the recipes as well!

  3. A good review. Am waiting for the surnali post.

  4. Nice Review, I am a Goud saraswat Brahmin and write about goan food on my blog I have you on my sidebar and love your blog..
    I would like to review books too , how do I go about it??THANK YOU!!!

    1. Thanks Mahek.I review books which I like and want to share the experience with my readers as well.You can do the same :)


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