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Letting things go sour

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Vinegar does its work quietly, subtly enhancing the flavours of Goan dishes. Meet Maria Carvalho from Margao who makes authentic toddy and pineapple vinegar in her home.


Goan cuisine is pretty much incomplete without vinegar to add that sour flavour that is so famously associated with its food. Vinegar has been around longer than we realize. In Goa, vinegar made from toddy is most popular and Goan food bereft of this important ingredient makes it incomplete. One can usually procure this chef's secret helper in the market place where the women sell it in conspicuous looking, used alcohol bottles.


When asked where this vinegar actually comes from the women selling it are hesitant to answer. Almost as if it's a well-kept secret! "We get them from Chandor, exactly where  - we can't tell you", says a vendor in Margao with a secret smile on her face. You can even get the bottle sealed and taken out of the country as there is nothing quite like homemade vinegar. 


Toddy vinegar works very well in vindalho, xacuti and is broadly used in soups, salad dressings and recipes. When mixed with your choice of spices, the coconut vinegar suddenly transforms into a uniquely flavoured table sauce which can be used for dipping.


Another kind of vinegar which is actually more of a dying art is made from pineapple. The process involved here takes approximately 15 days. Maria Carvalho, from Margao, one of the few people who actually make this vinegar, amongst other things says, "This kind of vinegar is not usually used in households. Toddy is more popular, and therefore the market demand for it is non-existent. Also, toddy vinegar available in markets today may well be adulterated, as a lot of the manufacturers use acetic acid from the pharmacies to produce the once authentic vinegar."


Natural toddy vinegar is rich in vitamins, such as potassium beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium, and also contains anti-oxidants which make this natural food such a great part of your diet for the benefits it provides. So the next time you use vinegar while making your Goan delicacy, remember that this ingredient can enhance your dish in a unique yet subtle fashion.


How to make toddy vinegar

  • Toddy is kept to ferment in an earthen jar
  • It requires to be filtered at least three times while the sediment settles
  • A piece of tile is immersed in the jar for both, a combination of superstitious purposes as well as a greater earthen flavour.


How to make pineapple vinegar

  • Cut a pineapple into small bits
  • Add water, sugar, yeast for fermentation
  • Keep it open for the vinegar flies to sit
  • After 15 days your vinegar is ready


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