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Quintessentially Goan: These traditional desserts will satisfy your sweet tooth

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Here is a selection of traditional Goan desserts from Pedro Pascoal Celso Araujo, Goan Master Chef at Radission Blu Resort Goa Cavelossim Beach.

Quintessentially Goan: These traditional desserts will satisfy your sweet tooth
A rooster sits on a white table cloth with blue border. A painted man with a guitar in hand stares from the wall. Latticed wooden panels divide the space in Lucio restaurant of Radisson Blu Resort Goa that sits smugly by the Cavelossim Beach. On the menu, names were getting lost in translation: Balchao. Xacuti. Cafreal. Sorpotel. Rolado. But in the well-appointed Goan-Portuguese restaurant, salt and spices weren't my temptation, sugar was. And when Pedro Pascoal Celso Araujo (mostly known as Chef Peter), the restaurant’s Goan Master Chef, began the Goan dessert story, one by one, the whiff of coconut, cucumber and cardamom flocked in the air. Soon, Lucio was all about desserts, traditional Goan desserts. From a tea-time cucumber cake to a coconut mound topped with an egg-yolk doily blended with Chef Peter’s big dos and don’ts.
Tavsali:
A cake made of cucumber just does not fit into the cake recipe ‘mould’. But it is a cake like no other. Borrowing its name from taushe (cucumber in Konkani), tavsali is made of grated cucumber, rice or semolina (rava), coconut, jaggery, cashew nuts and cardamom powder. For added flavour, a piece of turmeric leaf is incorporated into the batter. An old-world favourite tea-time snack, tavasli can be baked or steamed.
Dedos de damas: When Chef  Peter walked out of the Lucio kitchen with brown flowers in a peeled pineapple vase, I thought he had ignored the spatula and switched to floral arrangements. But I stood corrected. I could eat the flowers and the vase, too. Made of roasted nuts and also called Maiden’s Fingers, Dedos de damas are stuck as lollipops on decorated skewers and arranged in a vase shaped out of a watermelon or a pineapple.
Goda Phovu: Goda Phovu is a traditional breakfast or tea-time recipe made with beaten rice, coconut and jaggery. Slightly sweet and extremely nutritious (packed with iron and instant energy), Goan Goda Phovu is originally made of locally grown red rice which is de-husked and flattened into flat dry light flakes. For extra crunch, the Phovu is topped with fried coconut slices.
Bolo Sans Rival: A traditional Goan cake made of roasted powdered cashew nuts/almonds, powdered sugar, egg white, and layered with butter icing, this one is sinfully high on calories. Usually served during Christmas, this ‘cake without a rival’ was originally made only of almonds. But the expensive almonds are now often substituted with cashew nuts as the main ingredient.
Letri: Almost never available off-the-shelf, letri is a visual delight - a yellow lattice-like decoration sitting on a brown sweet round mound of coconut, shredded bread. Finding its origin in Portuguese cuisine, the letri is made of not-too-tender not-too-mature coconut cooked with shredded bread or egg whites and topped with fils de ovos (egg yolks drizzled into thin strands in sugar syrup). Interestingly, in north Goa, bread is used with coconut; in the south, egg whites are cooked along with the coconut.
Bebinca: The story has an austere leftover beginning. Once upon a time, there lived cloistered nuns in Convent of Santa Monica in old Goa who used the egg whites to starch their white habits. The leftover egg yolks were many. One Sister Bebiana decided to put the egg yolks to good use and accidentally invented the layered dessert. Or, so the story goes. Made of plain flour, sugar, ghee, egg yolk, and coconut milk, the 7-layered Goan bebinca is baked in a special earthenware oven (tizals) on fires of coconut husks. The traditional dessert is a modified version of bebingka made in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Dodol: Rice, coconut milk and jaggery. That is all it takes to make the dark brown dodol. The ingredients are simple but the hands might hurt with all the milk-stirring on slow fire for nearly 45 minutes. The rule: The coconut should be fully ripe (junn naal is the Goan term), the preferred rice variety is the locally grown Suroi Pitt and use a wooden spatula to stir the milk.
Pedro Pascoal Celso Araujo, Goan Master Chef, Radission Blu Resort Goa Cavelossim Beach.
Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer. Read her columns here
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