Faraal for the soul

One of my fondest memories of growing up with my grandmother is of the days when she fasted, and getting a share of the special dishes she ate. Deliciously textured sabudana khichdi: soft globules of sago, with surprising chunks of savoury potato and the crunch of peanuts. Or tangy, spicy, moriyo: a porridge-like dish made from grain, also called Moriyo in Gujarati cooked in sour yogurt with potatoes and green chilies. For me, these simple dishes were a break from the RDBS (roti-dal-bhaat-subji) everyday routine.

The months of August and September are considered the time of Shravan, one of the most prosperous times of the year according to the Hindu calendar. Many Hindu communities observe this period as one of fasting and switch to a faraal diet. “Shravan is a [time] when people fast on specific days or sometimes the whole month,” shares Pinky Chandan Dixit of Soam, an eatery that has one of the most elaborate Shravan menus in the city. The term faraal is derived from “phal aahar,” which literally translates to a ‘fruit diet’. In a larger sense, this means a diet of foods found growing naturally and foraged as opposed to cultivated grain. What can and cannot be eaten under this classification is a question of perception. All foods inappropriate for consumption such as any non-vegetarian, leftovers, spoiled, half-eaten or jootha foods, any foods considered tamasic (heaty) like radish, onion, garlic, eggplant, most warming spices as including but not limited to red chilli, fenugreek, (methi seeds), turmeric, mustard seeds, sesame, betel leaves and all cultivated grain such as lentils, rice, wheat, maize, are proscribed. The list of foods allowed totals to a selection of 100-150 ingredients, including fruit and all fruit products, easily digested vegetables like dudhi, parval, root vegetables like potato, suran, ratalu, kand. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, butter milk, butter and ghee, spices like green chilli. Starch in the faraal diet comes from sago, (tapica, sabudana), amaranth (rajgira), water chestnut (shingara), buckwheat (kuttu), arrowroot, sama millet. Using this limited basket of faraal ingredients, traditional Hindu kitchens have created an extensive repertoire of fasting dishes. Most common are dishes like sabudana khichdi and vadas, faraali pattice and upvasache thaalipeeth. A full upvaas or faraali thaali will comprise of a faraali kadhi thickened with shingare ka atta (water chestnust flour) instead of besan, a green chilli spiked yam and/or potato subji, pooris made from rajgira flour, a cucumber and peanut salad and sama ‘rice’ as a substitute. “We serve the kind of food that one finds in the kitchens of traditional Indian homes, which means our menu changes with the season as per traditional wisdom. We realised that people fasting for a month also appreciate variety and novelty. So we took the ingredients allowed during fasting time, and innovated with them to create new offerings,” says Chandan Dixit. It’s a happy turn of events because the traditional Shravan diet was one that was encouraged to give the environment and body a break to rejuvenate. “I discovered that many ingredients that are allowed at this time like buckwheat that have been eaten traditionally at this time are very good for us.” The result is a mélange of menus and dishes using ingredients allowed in fasting diets. From traditional favourites like Faraali Handvo, Kand Ni Pattice, to faraali versions of popular dishes like dosas, dhebra, paneer wrap. The crispy spicy Faraali Gold Coins, are a version of a popular starter, that Soam makes with crusty purple yam, topped with spicy paneer that are fried golden brown. There is even a faraali oondhiyu with rajgira puris. There is even a faraali version of its classic paanki, with sama flour. Chandan Dixit offer new dishes every year. This year there is Crispy Shakkar Kand, fried sweet potato slices, served with a thecha dip, a Faraali Sev Puri with crispy rajigra puris topped with a savoury potato mixture, spicy coriander- peanut chutney and sprinkled with potato salli. Wash it down with the comforting chilli-spiked soup of yam, potatoes and pumpkin topped with salli. For dessert, there is crispy malpua filled with saffron kalakand and a ratalu gulab jamun in which sweet potatoes have been substituted for the traditional flour.

The Shravan menu is ongoing at Soam until September 2; call: 2369 8080

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 6:43:07 PM |

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