Goa’s Oldest Community of Fishermen: The Ramponkars | 101 Wild Wild Chef

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stories from 101india I’m Karan Chef, traveler, adventurer, and foodie I have travelled all over the world And learnt many international cuisines Now it’s time to come home to roost Oh brother! Do it quickly! So be my meal-mate On my great Indian gastronomical adventure Goa loves its seafood It is as integral a part of Goa’s gastronomic
DNA As coconuts and cashew feni This love for everything fishy has brought
me To the sleepy beachside village of Issorcim
Hollant Where I would be meeting a fishing community That has been satiating Goa’s hunger for seafood
for centuries now Hi Raimond Hi Karan How are you Good good And you? Very good thank you. Thank you so much for having me Thank you My host Raimond and his family Belong to Goa’s oldest and most well known
fishing community Called the Ramponkars A community that is synonymous with traditional
fishing In the coastal city There aren’t any large mechanized boats Or stringent rules dictating their trade But old-school norms like making sure that
you only catch As much as you need So there is enough left for your fellow fishermen Ensuring sustainable fishing at its best Actually the Ramponkars are traditional fishermen
of Goa From ages ago, The Ramponkars are the only
people Who supply fish for all of Goa But for all their historical importance to
Goa A combination of modern technology And lack of concern for sustainable fishing Has made the future seem uncertain for the
Ramponkar way of life. These days, there are big (fishing) trawlers They use LED lights while fishing When you use LED lights, all the coastal fish
come out Drawn by the light The light has a large range So when us traditional fishermen go out to
fish We do not get a large catch This is causing huge losses for us Our community is dying, I would say The word dying has to be used Because if we don’t have fish, we can’t
survive So Raimond, I would love to come and see how
you fish You know, it’s a very important thing in
cooking To get fresh ingredients So I want to come in and see how you fish Why not? We will go now. We can go now? Yeah, we were just about to set off to go
fishing Come, let’s go. Yes, let’s go My mother always said ‘The early bird catches the worm’ We’re here in Hollant Village With my new found friends And we’re not here to catch a worm We’re here to catch a fish. Ready boys? Ready, let’s go. These calm waters of Hollant beach Make it the perfect stop for me to try my
hand At some ocean fishing with the big boys in
Raimond’s boat A far cry from the small nets that the Velips
used These fishermen know their fish and how to
catch them So it’s full motor ahead To a day of fishing, from the sea to the hearth Like this Careful, mind your hand It will get caught You’re throwing it very well! Huh? So now do you stay out here? Yes, we do For how many years have you been doing this
now? We’ve been here since childhood Just like this? It’s been over 20 years now Coming out here and fishing It’s really great You eat absolutely fresh fish everyday That’s true It was time to see what was going to be on
our plates It’s like a magic box you know, you never
know what’s going to come We caught a crab, look! Ohh! And it seemed that we reeled in quite a spread Crab, grouper, stingray and many others See if you want fresh fish, you have to come
to the ocean This is why you have such big muscles! Fishing done, it was time to get back on land On the boat, Raimond was raving about his
cousin’s crab recipes And by the looks of our catch Crab was definitely going to be on the day’s
menu Fresh crab straight off the boat What these people consider routine Is a city dweller’s food fantasy But before these crabs could be dunked into
a pot There was some cleaning up to do Right here, these two chunks, that’s where
the real meat is And that’s where it’s really really sweet All the way from here down to here And of course All over here Now I’ll break this in half? You normally trim all its legs off but you
leave the pincers Because that’s where the true sweet meat
is Once the crabs were ready, Raimond took me
into the kitchen Where his family had already set up the fire She cooks really well Tereza? Yeah Oh wow, what are you cooking today? Today I am making Crab Xec Xec And this is our regular food, made the way
we Ramponkars usually do it Can you help me out with making it? Yeah, yeah, of course What do you need? Can you pass me those onions Yeah of course After caramelizing some onions till golden
brown It was time for the crabs Do you add crabs now for a reason Or is it just that everyone’s been doing it
like this? No, there is a reason If we add the crabs now All the juices come out If we add the masala first Then we get a different flavour of just the
masala So it’s better if we add the crabs first And then the masala After letting the crabs cook for 5 minutes We added the masala Which had some lightly roasted grated coconut Cumin seeds Turmeric powder Garlic Red chillies Coriander seeds Cinnamon And some tamarind All ground with some water into a consistent
paste While the xec xec simmered on a low flame
for 10 minutes The discussion turned towards what the Ramponkar
youth was doing To keep the culture of its endangered community
alive We try to keep all the traditions we can We try to put it in front of society And we try to tell that we’re still here Our future generations should come to know
that We are the Ramponkars of Goa We women are keeping our culture alive through
our food And through selling fish Now you have a man also who can keep your
food alive A man The rooster crowing is like the oven timer
going off no? Like cuckoodo, yeah you are done Now the food is ready? Yeah Oh, brilliant Ok you can taste it and see how it is Awesome That is perfect, that is actually perfect Oh my goodness Can I get a little bowl and just start eating I am just joking, I am joking It was finally time to dig into something That I had not only helped cook but also catch How did you like it? You see how I’m just eating It’s a lesson… In English they say, if you’re quiet while
you’re eating food There’s nothing wrong with it So are we going to make anything else? Yeah I am going to make a sweet dish It’s called Soj Soj? Yeah To prepare that, I require a coconut So would you like to go and pluck some coconuts? You want me to go up the tree? I had no choice but to take up Tereza’s offer For a post-lunch and pre-dessert workout But then again, climbing up a tree was never
really my thing And we needed a little help Avinash! Come here, please Can you help us get two coconuts? The beauty of the Ramponkar cuisine Lies in the freshness of its ingredients Crabs that still smell of the ocean And coconuts freshly picked out of a tree But this luxury of having the ocean in their
backyard to fish from Might not last forever for the Ramponkars At first, it was like heaven Now, the hotel industry has taken over They’ve built hotels along the coast And it causes a lot of problems while fishing When we go out to fish, the hotels tell us That it is private property and we aren’t
allowed to enter When we cast our nets, they tell us not to
do it near the hotels They tell where we can and can’t cast our
nets The contest between the Ramponkars and the
tourism industry For Goa’s precious coastline Seems heavily loaded in favor of the cash
rich tourism industry If the Ramponkars are to have a chance in
this fight Goa needs to be reminded of how integral they
are to its cuisine and culture Come, let’s go grind the coconut Get out all the juice Come, let’s go Before we could get back in the kitchen We had to extract coconut milk Which would form the base for the dessert That Tereza was making And if you want fresh coconut milk Well, you have to put in some hard work I just can’t imagine doing this for over
200 people in a restaurant Thank god for pre-packaged coconut flakes I have to spend all my hours doing this I would, however, have arms like Raimond if
I did Such a strong guy So now we’ve grated your coconut We made coconut milk especially for you Now can you tell me what is Soj? What is this dessert? Soj is actually a traditional sweet dish Which is prepared occasionaly for special
functions like marriages Oh, lovely And since you’ve come down as a guest So we’re preparing it especially for you The preparation of this special Goan dessert Starts with heating the coconut milk for a
couple of minutes After which we put in the sweetners A fist-sized block of both palm and sugarcane
jaggery Can I ask you why we put both palm and sugarcane
jaggery? Yeah See if we add only palm jaggery The coconut milk will become dark in colour And if we add just sugarcane jaggery The taste and the texture differs The texture as well, oh wow Yeah Okay After the jaggery melts Add a cup of rice flour to some coconut milk Mix it up nicely And add it to the mixture And you should stir it continuously For how long? It should be around 45 minutes And you keep stirring? Keep stirring Continuously stirring a pot for 45 minutes Is already quite a task But if you add some wet firewood And a breeze in the wrong direction Then you are setting yourself up for a teary-eyed
evening How? How can you sit here for 45 minutes non stop
with the smoke They say, ‘no pain no gain’ Through the smoke And our tears We added cardamom to get an elaichi flavor And finally The ordeal came to an end Earlier it was literally very watery Now, because of the rice flour And because of the coconut milk And the coconut pulp And the sugar And because of the heat naturally taking all
the moisture out It’s actually beginning to thicken Now it’s thickened and now it’s done And now I have to add chana dal to it It’s really cool how you’ve used dal Like everyone here I have associated dal all my life With dal rice, and I have never used it in
desserts Ok now it’s done Now we’re going to enjoy it We’ll go to the beach Sit over there And we’re going to have it in typical Ramponkar
style Done Okay I am so excited Yeah Huge trawlers netting away all the fish Rising costs of labour and fishing nets The hotel industry eating into their lands There are many issues facing the Ramponkars But meeting Raimond and his family made me
realise That the fight for the Ramponkar culture and
cuisine Is in able and hospitable hands You and Tereza, I want to say thank you You have shown me a slice of what the Ramponkar
life is about And I promise you I will keep as much as I can your of culture
alive Not only in my heart But in my food as well I want to retire like this I seriously do I want to sit by the ocean I want to go fishing in the morning I want to cook my fish in the evening for
people And I want to go to sleep That’s all

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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