Know your Onions

Ingredients in Konkani Cooking

As I reach the completion of  my book on Konkani Cooking I have had fun finding out more about all the more  unusual ingredients used in this cuisine. Right now I have mentioned most of the scientific names and some common names of these ingredients ( also in 10 languages in the glossary of the book) but I'd be grateful for any other insights readers may have about the following:

Spices primarily used :

  1. Black pepper
  2. Fenugreek
  3. Red chillies   For example a.Byadgi b. Birds eye, c. Kashmiri chillies 
  4. Asafetida 
  5. Turmeric
  6. Mustard seed
  7. Cumin

Secondary Spices used:

1.Teppal, Tirphal, trephal, Sichuan pepper

2. Coriander

3. Khus Khus



6.Bay leaf/ Tej patta (different from Cassia leaf/bay leaf in the west)

7. Cardamon Black and green




Green coriander

Green Mango

Curry leaf

Mango Ginger/ aamhaldi



C. Souring agents used in Konkani food for example

1.Bilimbi fruit of the Avarrhoa Bilimbi tree , also known as cucumber tree or tree sorrel. bilimbi,Irumban Puli,Chemmeen Puli,Bimbul, Orkkaapuli.A very acid fruit sometimes eaten raw as a relish. Mostly dried in salt and used as a souring agent in Konkani food.

2.Carambola/ Karmbal   also known as starfruit is the fruit of the Carmabola Avarhhoa tree,

3 Tamarind


5.Mango pith


D.Vegetables, fruit and flowers  used in Konkani Cuisine

Coconut- Coconut tree. Called Kalpavriksh in Konkani cooking 

Gourds- ash gourd*, snake gourd, bitter gourd, teasel gourd, Ridge gourd, Bottle gourd, *

Malabar Cucumber , Magge

Chayote, Chow chow

Yam, kook, Chinese potato, Wild potato

Sweet potato

Banana, flower, pith and fruit

Drumstick , flower and leaves and fruit

Colocasia, leaves and corms

Breadfruit, /Neer phanas

Hog Plums/ Ambada

Wood apple ( note this is not Bel Phal)

Tender cashewnuts,

Jackfruit, fruit and seeds

Pumpkin, flowers and fruit

Gooseberries /Amla

Karmbal /Star fruit

Gulla or Matti Gulla ( green aubergine)

Greens- Brahmi leaves/Ekpani/Gotu Kola




             Malabar Spinach

Tender Bamboo shoots


E.Lentils /peas

Cow peas

Horse Gram/ Kulith/

Besides, Green gram, Black gram, Pigeon Peas and Red lentils 


Common fish used in Konkani cooking- For example

Lady fish

Shark Ambotik

Rock fish

Do write in with any other local names of ingredients in order to help identify it for other users and also any personal or unusual way in which you clean, cut or cook any of the uncommon ones.


How to keep herbs fresh


Pune has become a place of plenty. Earlier on about the only fresh herb one could get was green dhania ( coriander) in generous bunches.Now you get fresh Thyme, Parsley, Flat leaf parsley, Basil, Sage and Marjoram , even though the bunches are quite slender.

One of the problems about fresh herbs is that they don't stay fresh very long and soon become a sodden mess when kept in a plastic bag in the fridge. Unless you go veggie shopping everyday, these herbs need to be replenished frequently, and sadly the day that I need one or the other I find a green mass of what looks like seaweed in the said plastic bags instead of  the nice, springy, fragrant leaves I want.

To circumvent such utter disappointment I have taken to freezing my herbs.

Blanch-herbs Herbs-in-ice-waterPack-herbs

All you need is lots of ice, a large bowl and a wire basket  in the same size as a pan.I use a 6 " pan and and a 6" wire basket.

  • First remove any wilted or damaged bits from the herbs , then wash them in cold water. Tie them into tiny bunches .
  • Now bring a pan of water to the boil. When it is giving off a good amount of steam hold the bunch of herbs in a steam/wire strainer/ basket over the pan and  blanch them for  1 minute.
  • Immediately remove the bunch and plunge into a bowl of ice water.
  • Shake of f the excess water and pack in a clean plastic bag and tie.
  • You can now store them in the freezer for individual use. Tada...herbs at hand everyday!

Making Coconut Milk


I was shocked today when I saw the price on a 200 ml packet of coconut milk. The General Store owner asked me " Kaunse Zamana ke baare mein baat kar rahe ho?" ( Which age are you speaking of?) when I mentioned the price I thought it was.

That made me even more determined to NEVER use packaged coconut milk and ALWAYS make my own. It is anyway so much better.

Here's how to go about it if you have never made coconut milk before.

Buy the freshest coconut you can find. If it has a husk,  shake well and check if it has enough water inside. If it is dehusked check for patches or discolouration.Patches generally means that water has leaked out of the nut and the shell is cracked. NOT good.Look for any seepage or discolouration round the "soft eye".

Do not buy if the shell looks grey or old.

Ok , now that you have found a nice fresh coconut drain the water by making a hole through the soft eye. You can drink that up right away or keep it refrigerated for a couple of hours.

Now put the whole coconut in a plastic bag and smash it on a hard surface.

I could give you plenty of tips on how to crack the coconut in half, but since we have no need of a nicely shaped shell I will dispense with those instructions.

1Grated-coconut 2Blended-cocnut-gratings-and

Pressing-out-coconut-milk-t4 Coconut-milk

Take the flesh out and peel the brown cover with a potato peeler if you like.( I don't) Chop into small pieces and put it in a blender to shred. Once it is of a grated consistency add 250 ml of hot water and blend till the water has turned opaque . Strain through a fine sieve, squeezing out as much milk as possible. This is called the first pressing.

Return the coconut grounds to the blender and add another 250-350 ml of hot water. Repeat the process above, once more, till all the milk of the coconut has been extracted.The second pressing has less milk, is not so white but is still packed with flavour.

Use all the milk while it is fresh. Its great for Indian, Thai, Malay or Indonesian food. Also for cocktails and shakes.

And, believe me, packaged coconut milk is not a patch on the real thing!