To Market, To Market, To Buy Some………………..
One place I would love to show you around, is the market where I shop for my vegetables and fruit. I live in Panaji (also known as Panjim) in Goa and for me, nothing quite compares to the experience of going to the market, seeing fresh and seasonal produce. Though a lot of it is grown locally and brought to the market each morning, fresh from the fields, most of the produce comes in daily by truck from neighbouring states. The new market complex where the market has been housed for the past few years doesn’t have the charm of the old market, but is less congested as there’s a lot more space now.
Since a real, ordinary tour is out of question for geographical reasons, a virtual tour is all I can do. I have wanted to do this for a while, but every time I go to the market I’m carrying back my week’s quota of shopping and there’s no place for a camera or photography in that.
One of the few advantages of having to ferry around a teenager to and from her classes is the “waiting” time between “drops” and “pick-ups”! I almost always do my reading in this time, and in the past year I have taken to carrying my camera with me as well.
Last week I had about an hour to spare in the morning and I put it to good use wandering around the market, this time with my camera. I’m afraid some of my photographs are a bit blurred, but the Panaji Municipal Works didn’t have photography enthusiasts on their priority list when they built this new market. The effects of low ambient light, bright fluorescent lights and the absence of a tripod can be seen in some of the photographs.
What you can see in my photographs is about 10% of the market which doesn’t include the fish market, the flower stalls, the part that sells grain, lentils and groceries, the shops selling kitchen ware, clothing, home décor stuff and all those knick-knacks, etc.
So, join me as I take you on a little virtual tour of the market in my part of the world. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of what my weekly fruit and vegetable shopping entails.
This is a cartoon depiction of a typical Goan market scene by Goa’s very own Mario Miranda. This cartoon panel is one of three or four that decorate the walls inside the main market building.
These women are selling green mangoes, okra, red pumkin (lal doodhi/ mathan), drumsticks (shinga/ murungakkai), snake gourd (padval/ podavalangai), spinach, yard long beans and even some flowers!
The market has stalls and enough space inside, but you will find women from the villages on the outskirts and within Panaji bringing fresh vegetables from their gardens/ fields for sale. They're here early in the morning, selling seasonal vegetables most of the m leave by about 10:00am or 11:00am once they've sold everything.
Two ladies selling vegetables, one outside the market and one inside.
The lady on the left swas sitting outside selling sweet potatoes and eggplant. This particular variety of puple eggplant is big (about the size of a large coconut) and has very little seeds. This is the season for them and they are good for dishes like "baingan bhartha" and other such dishes that require roasting the eggplant.
The lady on the right was taking "forty winks" till her customers started turning up.
Coconuts are an important and essential part of Goan cuisine. This lady also sells the local variety of small and sweer yellow bananas called "elchi/ velchi". I believe they're supposed to have the flavour of cardamom (hence the name, from "elaichi" for cardamom), but maybe my taste buds aren't sensitive enough because I've never caught the flavour int hose bananas!
Freshly pressed extra virgin coconut oil for sale. Many of the coconut sellers at the market also offer coconut oil for sale. The oil is extracted in the traditional oil presses and no commercially produced coconut oil comes even close in terms of taste and flavour!
Two local variety of beans that are in season now. On the left are cluster beans (chitki/ kothavarakkai) and on the right are the extra long variety of yard long beans (vaal/ payaru). You can also keep seeing a lot of green mangoes in many of the pictures, and the ripe mangoes have just started arriving.
One thing I really love about Panaji Market are the flower stalls. Flowers are an important part of Indian life since they're very much a part of our rituals and traditions. The man on the left is stringing flowers into garlands, which will look like those hanging behind him or those in the baslet on the right.
Flower garlands with mango leaves strung in between are considered an important requirement especially when auspicious ceremonies being conducted.
Apart from being used to decorate the alter in churches and chapels and homes, Goans have a practise of gifting bouquets on important occasions. Even outside the market, one can find numerous corner flower stalls seeling the most beautiful variety of flowers either as bunches or in elaborate arrangements.
Here is a simple flower basket arrangement of yellow roses. It was too early to photograph more as the stalls were still unpacking fresh flowers. The guy on the left is selling a variety of areca nuts, betel leaves and paraphernalia required by paan chewers. Areca nuts and betel leaves are also bought for Hindu religious traditons and rituals
Goa being a tourist destination, especially with foreigners, means that there is a demand for all kinds of cuisines which demand traditionally non-Indian vegetables, fruit and herbs. While most five star hotels and upmarket restaurants here source their requirements of these from the suppliers directly, one can still find them being sold by many of the stalls at the market. American sweet corn, aspapargus, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, cherry tomatoes, different kinds of lettuce, a variety of fresh herbs including celery, parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano are now easily available but for a price.
These avocados are grown in India but we now also have fruit from all over the world including kiwis from New Zealand, pears from South Africa, Fuji apples and pears from China, grapes, plums and the whole variety of apples (Golden Delicious, Garnny Smiths, Gala and so on) from the U.S.!
Two days back I bought Galangal for the first time and last week I discovered a stall selling "FRESh NooDLES". If you take a good look at the picture (click on it for a larger image) you can see he has green and yellow zucchini, red cabbages as well as Hershey's Syrup, Nutella, Pickled Olives and Tabasco on his shelves!
Our summers are very hot and the only thing, in my opinion, that makes them bearable are the mangoes. Some might argue with me, but if you have eaten Indian mangoes you know they're among the best in the world. And I don't mean the much hyped "Alphonso" variety which isn't a patch on some other varieties we get in India.
In Goa it is also the season for cashew fruits (and nuts naturally). Here the cashew apple (as the fruit is known) is processed to make a rather potent (and smelly, if I may say so) alcoholic drink/ liquor called "feni"
Summer in south India is also the season for the jackfruit. It is a fruit that has been compared to the Durian though I believe it comes nowhere close to that legendary fruit in terms of small or taste, thankfully!
In my traditional Palakkad Iyer cuisine, we use this fruit in its raw form as well as when it is ripe. The raw jackfruit is cooked into a variety of savoury dishes featuring a lot of coconut. We also make a kind of pappadum (deep-fried crisp) with it. Raw jackfruit chips/ crisps fried in coconut oil are another absolutely delicious thing to make.
The ripe jackfruit is eaten as it is or cooked into desserts and sometimes preserved into a kind of thick jam with jaggery. This jam is used as filling in sweets or made into a coconut milk pudding called "payasam/ kheer"
Jackfruit is not one of my favourites and I tend to avaoid it though its popular with my family. Cutting it, cleaning it and removing the edible flesh is a rather complicated, messy and time-consuming job. Luckily for people like me, one can find pieces like these for sale which makes life a whole lot easier. It also means that small families don't have to wonder about what to do with a whopping big jackfruit!
Big, juicy and sweet pineapples. Another fruit which has started making its appearnce at the market. Papayas and watermelons too.
Another fruit which I've been seeing a lot in the past couple of weeks is the rose apple, wax apple, love apple, water apple or whatever you call it. Back home we call it "champakkai". Funnily enough, I've been seeing only the pale green variety and not the more commom reddish pink kind
With the cool winter almost gone, the last of the strawberries are around, but giving way to the more seasonal sweet green seedless grapes and "loose jacket" oranges (as we call our Tangerines) of the summer.
Limes (not lemons) become very expensive in summer because they're in demand for making the most popular of all summer thirst quenchers - "nimbu paani" (lemon water/ lemonade). The best time to buy them is in winter when they're cheaper and can be made into a variety of delicious lime pickle
Another favourite summer thirst quencher - watermelons! One can find these striped kind or the smaller dark green variety without stripes which is sweeter. Whatever kind, watermelon is best when eaten chilled.
One of the vegetable stalls at the market. This vendor catches up with the news in the morning paper before his business perks up.
You may be mistaken, thinking this is ginger. That's fresh turmeric roots. Tender turmeric roots make great Indian style pickle while the dried root becomes turmeric powder or haldi.
That's red pumpkin (lal doodhi/ mathan) being cleaned to remove the seeds and the "cobwebby" centre. Such little acts of consideration make the average home cook's life easier when it comes to preparing vegetables for cooking.
The lady is the photograph is using a tradition "knife-cum-coconut scraper" (for want of a better word) to do this. One needs practice to cut vegetables on this implement and I remember my grandmother, who rarely used a knife, chopping vegetables on this in half the time I could with a knife! In my home, this is called an "aruvamanai" and it is made of a wooden base which can be sat on comfortably. One end of the base has a piece of iron fashioned such that the top edge is sharp like a knife and the end od the metal blade is flattened with a "toothy" edge which is perfect for scraping coconuts.
And don't you love those bangles on that lady's wrists?
Okra so fresh that it feels crisp when you break it! And pumpkin blossoms too. I have never cooked with them but I know they can made inti a stirfry with coconut and green chillies and they can be batter fried too. Next visit to the market and I'm buying some before they're gone.
There are plenty of sweet potatoes too these days. I have always seen the pink coloured ones and am seeing these white ones (well they're dirty and need cleaning) for the first time. Need to make some oven fries soon.
A view of some of the stalls from a distance. I don't how anyone (at least, us food obsessed types) can be anything but happy at the freshness and colour that comes with a visual feast like this. I'm not particularly fond of shopping but I do enjoy going to my market, though I prefer not to dwell on the mundane tasks like lugging home the bags bulging with purchases or having to sort and put them away!